James Wan has been at it again. After the twin successes of The Conjuring and Annabelle, comes the imaginatively titled Conjuring 2, in which paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) take on a couple of ‘real-life’cases with their customary mixture of guts and cheesiness. For the film’s pre-credit sequence, we’re in The Amityville House, (the Warren’s most famous case) where Lorraine encounters the unwelcome attentions of a grinning nun and where she has a premonition that something bad is going to happen to her hubby.
After the credits, we move swiftly on to merry England (Enfield to be more precise) where single Mum, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’ Connor) and her four kids are getting some unwelcome attention of their own, particularly young Janet (Madison Wolfe) who is the recipient of some rather scary poltergeist phenomenon. (Interestingly, the story has been filmed as recently as 2015 in The Enfield Haunting, a TV mini series which offered a much more credible version of the story. It’s probably important to mention here that in real life, the Warrens had hardly any connection with the Enfield case whatsoever.) The story is set in 1977 but the Hodgsons appear to be suffering levels of squalor more reminiscent of the 1930s – peeling wallpaper, broken furniture and the like. Furthermore, down in their cellar, they have what must be the worst case of damp in history – you don’t need a spanner down there so much as a snorkel and flippers.
Despite the inaccuracies, these early scenes are surprisingly effective; Wan manages to kindle genuine tension in the telling and there are some cleverly handled set pieces that will have even the hardiest viewer grabbing for their neighbour’s hand. But somebody needs to tell him that less is more. After the first half hour or so, the story begins to kick in and as a consequence proceedings move increasingly into the realms of the risible. What could easily have been a four star movie, slips steadily down the ratings, and by the final half hour, you’re as likely to be hooting with laughter as cringing in terror. What’s more, the Warrens turn out to be the most terminally irritating duo of God botherers ever to visit a haunted house. A scene where Ed croons an Elvis song to the Hodgson kids seems to have wandered in from a different movie entirely, while Lorraine has an annoying habit of finding herself wandering about in an alternate world, where ghostly exposition keeps rearing its ugly head.
The film’s ultimate plot twist will have you gasping not in shock but in disbelief that anybody thought we’d swallow such an unlikely idea, even in a ghost story and by then, it’s way too late to rescue this nonsense, which is a shame. Wan clearly has a real talent for scare movies and if he would just exercise a little more self control, he could be creating films of real quality. As it stands this is a major disappointment.