James Wan is back with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, bringing with them another case from the paranormal investigation files of Ed and Lorraine Warren. On the surface, The Conjuring 2 is a simple repeat of the premise of the first film with its terrified family and dangerously haunted house. Fortunately this is just a simple foundation for Wan to build something quite different, all the while equally creepy, on top of.
As the Warrens continue to accrue fame for their experiences with the supernatural, a little girl innocently plays with an Ouija board across the pond. Without consuming a bunch of Pixie Sticks and Fun Dip first. I know. Rookie mistake. Because of this, a malevolent spirit is unleashed on the house. First it’s the little things: the youngest daughter starts sleep walking, closed doors swing open, furniture slides across the floor, etc., but when an angry spirit starts using the daughter to communicate it’s time to call in the experts. It’s time for the Warrens.
But first we have to visit the Amityville Horror house. If there’s one thing to complain about when it comes to this series, it’s the Warrens. I hate to say it, but the Warrens are the worst part of their own movies simply because they’re such an important aspect of them. Take the first movie: if it were up to me I would cut out all the stuff with their daughter in the middle of the movie. I know it’s important to understand the danger they’re putting themselves in by fighting evil, but if I had to hear Lorraine say “God brought us together for a reason” one more time I was going to burn the house down.
Don’t get me wrong, the Warrens are due all the respect Wan wants to give them and I love Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in their roles. But they’re best when they’re interacting with the family that’s in need, as opposed to when the movie takes a timeout for character moments between the two. These moments always pull away from the main story by forcing an unnecessary extra layer of drama when there is already plenty of that going around. Instead, the Warrens should remain supporting characters to their experiences. They should be supporting characters to the victims that need their help.
Victims like Janet Hodgson. Madison Wolfe gives a multilayered performance as the focal point of this haunting, and it’s clear to see that Wan has a lot of fun with there being a child at the center of it all. With the added bonus of Lorraine not being able to come in and verify the spirit as she was with the unambiguous ghost story of the first film, Wan gets to add a new layer of confusion to this story by simply including dreams and/or dreamlike states, otherworldly experiences, and the creative imagination of a child. Suddenly there’s skepticism as to whether what we saw was actually what we saw.
Eventually the Warrens tell us what to believe, and I know what I want to believe about the paranormal on the whole, but whether this all is actually true or not one thing is certain: the Warrens sure know how to tell an entertaining story.