In a sense, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren helped spawn the modern horror movie. After all, it was they who documented the murders at the house in Amityville, a real-life horror tale that spawned first a best-selling book, then a hit horror movie (that sure made an impression on me as a kid). Even Eddie Murphy joked in his 1980s stand-up, if the house hisses at you, “Gettttt ouuuuutttt…” how come the white people never run for the door?
So when The Conjuring 2 (like it’s fun predecessor) promises that the story portrayed is true, and is based on the files of the Warrens, it promises to be a doozy. The problem is, where the first Conjuring film felt like a fresh interpretation of 70s-style horror, this new movie just seems to feel like the same old horror-movie clichés that, if we are to give them credit, the Warrens probably helped launch with their famous investigations.
In this case, the disruptive house in questions is in working class London, where a mother (Frances O’Connor) and her gaggle of kids are being terrorized by an old-man spirit that given special attention to young Janet (Madison Wolfe). She sleepwalks, finds her brick-sized TV remote moving by itself, and ends up channeling one dead Bill Wilkins, who is a cranky, leering creep. But when the media and then the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are pulled in to validate the haunting and/or possession, things may not be what they seem. Is Janet making it up? Is it a ploy by the family for media attention? Even the Warrens aren’t exactly sure.
Where The Conjuring 2 gets typical is its portrayal of all the possible bad stuff in the house. You know if there is a shadow that something will jump out. If Ed says, “Hey, I painted this super-creepy picture of a nun clown with pointy teeth and glowing eyes!” that the Warrens probably shouldn’t hang said creepy painting on the wall in the den. (What UP with the nun clown demon, btw?) There is another spooky olde-tyme toy, crosses turning upside by themselves, visions becoming realized. The problem is, we’ve seen these all before, so the surprises are never more than expected.
I really really liked the first Conjuring (it made myBest of 2013 list), and I love the fact that these particular stories are based on real-life investigations. I think there is definitely hope there is more to explore with the Warrens, I just wish that modern movies (and horror fans like me) weren’t so jaded by been-there-done-that scares.
The extras are actually quite interesting, with interviews with a couple of the grown up kids, including the real Janet. They are reunited with Lorraine Warren, who hasn’t seen them since the haunting, and it is quite sweet. Also interesting is the painstaking research into accuracy that the filmmakers put into the production, right down to the wallpaper and pop culture posters on the kids’ walls. The deleted scenes don’t really offer much new, other than a peek at how Janet’s life at school became miserable for being the “ghost girl”. There are also a featurettes about creating Crooked Man, scoring the film, plus a tour through one of Warner Bros. supposed haunted stages..