The second film in the Conjuring series once again focuses on a case investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren (portrayed in the film by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) and unlike the Annabelle stories, these films lean towards the smarter, filled with a well-crafted story, and some legitimate jump scares and actual terror.
The film opens with their investigation on Amityville, before moving to the Enfield poltergeist in the UK. Both cases have been argued to be hoaxes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the film version ends up being a fairly spooky film.
Lorraine is haunted by visions of a demonic looking nun who brings with her a prophecy of Ed’s violent death, something which makes her urge her husband to hold back on the investigation side of things for a while. But in England, the Hodgson family, headed by Peggy (Frances O’Connor) is having a terrifying time in their home, with all of the activity seeming to focus on young Janet (Madison Wolfe).
As the pair investigate the incident is caught up in a media storm which makes them more cautious about their involvement. But the young family needs their help, and despite some misgivings, and a run in with a sceptical member of the press the pair lend a hand, even if it puts them both at risk.
The thing in the house knows what scares the children and goes at them through that, keeping a family in terror. And as I watched, I was rather taken in by Wan’s use of visual storytelling, and his playing with expectations, and generating fear.
For instance there are shots though the windows of the house, where we see one of the kids, and right next to it is another window, all black. Instead of shooting a medium shot with just the kid through the window, we’re left with this other dark window, and consequently we’re drawn to it over and over, expecting, because it’s a horror movie, to see something.
The film does that a lot. Plays with expectations, sometimes delivering on them, and sometimes letting you fall for the idea, and hitting you with something else. Consequently, both of the first films in The Conjuring series are solid horror films, or at least solid ghost stories.
Whether these events actually happened or not, the films themselves actually create a spooky reality that seems adjacent to ours, and makes you, even temporarily, wonder about what is happening in the house next to you, and in the lives of those who live there.
I am actually eagerly looking forward to the third film in the main series, and hope that some of the spin-offs tell their tales as solidly at some point.