The Conjuring was a pretty rare thing in the summer of 2013. It was a reasonably well budgeted, big studio horror movie with a relatively big name cast and a big name director that managed to be a critical and financial smash. It did what so few things in Hollywood's most abundant genre manage to. It was a bonafide great film that transcended the horror genre and just became a generally well regarded film. The problem is, the machine that is Hollywood can easily turn a great horror franchise into a snake that winds up eating its own tail with bad sequel after bad sequel until anything that was good about it just feels like a foggy, distant memory. Fortunately for us, director James Wan is far too good at what he does to let that happen.
The Conjuring 2 is very much the sequel anyone who enjoyed the original deserves, even though it is the third entry in the franchise. Naturally, the doll that helped make the first film such a great success got her own prequel with Annabelle. But Wan was not in the director's chair and it felt like every bit of a decent but definitely not great continuation of one of the truly great modern horror franchises and there was definitely some uncertainty moving forward. However, Wan has become a huge and in demand name in the business and something just felt right about him coming back. There was a sense that he wasn't just returning to direct simply out of obligation or because he had nothing better to do. As it turns out, that feeling was very right.
The story of The Conjuring 2 once again lets us live out a nightmarish alleged reality through the eyes of famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively. This time around, the Warrens are dealing with the fallout from their involvement in the supposed hoax that was the famous Amityville hauntings. In the midst of all the controversy and after Lorraine has a distressing vision, the pair are called away to London to help out a family who is being plagued by an evil spirit that has possessed a young girl named Janet (Madison Wolfe). As anyone who has seen anything Wan has done in the horror genre might expect, things do not go well and get downright terrifying.
The film is tackling one of the most famous and well documented paranormal instances in human history, the Enfield Poltergeist, which took place in the late 1970s. The potential problem with a film like The Conjuring 2 being based on a real event is that it can put some people off because they will simply write it off as something that was fake, so anything that happens in the film will lose its effect with that in mind. The fact of the matter is that no matter what you believe, Wan has crafted an undeniably effective horror film that works no matter what you believe or don't believe in. Leave your baggage at the door, because you will be robbing yourself of a truly rare experience in a genre that is so overly crowded with mediocrity.
The kind of strange thing about The Conjuring 2 is that there is really nothing in the film that hasn't been done before to some degree. Possession films have been a staple of the horror genre for decades and at its core, that is what this film is. But Wan is not just a good director. At this point, it is safe to say that the man is a modern master of the horror genre and a genuinely talented filmmaker who really knows how to get the most out of everything he has to work with. The scary elements are painstakingly crafted, the performances are far from phoned in like they are in similar films, the cast is of a caliber that many would say is almost too good for what the genre typically warrants. Specifically, Wolfe turns in a truly great performance that will surely not get the accolades it deserves. Every other cinematic element is just that small notch above what it might be in the hands of a less talented man, or woman for that matter. That is what makes The Conjuring, both 1 and 2, so great.
There are good horror movies released all of the time, but many of them don't get a wide enough release to be noticed nor are they something that can truly appeal to a mass audience. The Conjuring 2 is something, much like its predecessor, that is getting that wide release it deserves and can be enjoyed by a far larger audience than just horror junkies. It is simply a good film and one that delivers something very different for those who may not watch every horror film that comes out. If you are the type of person that waits for the truly great horror movie that comes out once in a blue moon, this is that movie.
Die hard horror fans go watch run of the mill horror movies for the same reason someone might stop and use a cheap foot massage chair at a shopping mall. No, it isn't a real massage, but it'll do until the real thing is an option. The Conjuring 2 is the real thing, and will make you feel like you need a massage afterward, because the tension stars and save for a brief moment of much needed levity here or there, simply does not let up. If we set the bar at brilliant for The Conjuring, than The Conjuring 2 may not be able to quite live up to that very high mark, so it will have to settle for simply being really damn great.