Thursday, 16 June 2016
The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring 2 - The Enfield Case
2016 USA Directed by James Wan
UK cinema release print.
With special thanks to my good friend Doctor Rob Wilson for providing the exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ pictures while The Conjuring 2 was filming last year, three of which are pictured above.
When I reviewed The Conjuring, also directed by James Wan, a few years ago... I proclaimed that it was essentially one of the all time great, classic horror films (you can read that review here). There was a spin off film about the spooky doll who featured in that film, Annabelle (review here) but this was not exactly the classic that The Conjuring was, to be fair. As far as the original film goes, though, I still believe that it’s going to be even more well thought of in, say, 40 years time, than it is now. Definitely it will be hailed and remembered as one of the all time greats of the genre... I'm pretty sure about that.
Now The Conjuring 2, which has the subtitle The Enfield Case, at least for the British public, is also not quite the classic that the first movie was and, frankly, how could it be? That being said, it certainly doesn’t stop lightening from striking twice in that it’s still a beautifully put together horror movie and it lives up to the high standards of that first outing pretty well. If you go and see this next adventure from the real life files of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s case books, played charmingly again by the wonderful duo of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, it really won’t leave any bitter taste in your mouth and it’s a true, spiritual sequel to that first, opening movie a couple of years ago.
I had an extra reason for wanting to catch this sequel as soon as possible and so I went on the Monday night it opened in my local cinema, which is an unusual day to release a movie on over here in the UK. That reason being that the main narrative of the movie is actually set (and also shot) not very far from where I’ve been living the last 40 years. I moved to the Enfield of the story back in 1976, after surviving a mind bogglingly strange car accident, which I won’t go into here. The stuff which was happening in this film started happening a year later in 1977 and it was a bit of a local myth around town at the time. I personally didn’t hear quite so much about it because I spent two years being home schooled due to the accident I had but it was featured on a lot of TV shows at the time... the late 1970s in Enfield was the zeitgeist of the poltergeist, I guess.
The movie starts off completely differently to how I thought it would... actually picking back up with the Warrens’ not long after we left them in the last movie, when they were going to investigate a certain, extremely famous haunting which was also one of their cases. So things pick up here with a seance style session within that investigation around what many people now know as... The Amityville Horror. In fact, the set designers choose to pick up on the architectural design of the 1970s movie but, instead of seeing those big ‘eye’-conic windows from the outside, we see them from inside the house. This opening sequence which has Lorraine leaving her body and going through some disturbing visions isn’t just to remind us who the characters are, either... but I’m trying to do this without spoilers so I won’t go into too much detail here.
Once again, James Wan and his crew prove themselves to be absolute masters of this kind of genre horror movie, with long lingering shots that dwell at places where you can either see or imagine details which may or may not be important. Everything is timed pretty perfectly, which anyone who has seen some of the horror movies coming out over the last few years knows isn’t a given, and the movement of the camera combined with the slow discovery by the actors or the frantic mad dashes for escape or engagement with various evil forces, does a lot to help the director ratchet up the tension to almost unbearable levels at some points.
And, of course, one of the best ingredients of the first film is carried over into this one... in that all the human characters are really nice people who you would not wish to see any of this stuff happening to. Farmiga and Wilson excel at playing these two characters and their level of charm is completely off the scale. They portray the couple as so ‘in love’ and that really helps ground the horror film and also, of course, increases the emotional stakes. The scene where Wilson plays the guitar and imitates Elvis is such a great scene which might have slowed down the whole film in the hands of another director and editor... but presented as it is here, it does wonders for the movie. The two leads are coupled with a bunch of actors and actresses who are absolutely faultless, with special shout outs to Madison Wolfe and Frances O’ Connor, as the main troubled daughter and her mother. In fact, the whole cast manage to accurately bring to life the stresses and camaraderie that living in this particular town at this particular time was like and it really rang true for me. I remember people like this from my childhood. They even got Franka Potente in there as a sceptical researcher and it was good seeing her on screen again.
So, of course, you totally fear for them all.
Especially when the writers fling further tension at the audience in an earlyish part of the picture involving Lorraine’s vision of Ed’s death in a specific manner which you are just waiting to half happen all the way through the movie. You know there’s going to be a high stress moment coming at some point in the movie and... well... yeah, the iconography from the vision certainly comes into play at one point in the running time.
There’s one thing which I did find silly in that the girls are reported here as going to Enfield Grammar School, and it seems to have been shot there too. I know because that’s my old school and I recognised quite a lot of it. However, I should probably point out that, in real life, the girls didn’t go there because, well... it was an all boys school. So I did find that kinda curious but I guess it was done to give something with more recognition value for audiences, in terms of the name of the school and reminding the audience where the majority of the movie is set when transitioning between countries at certain points for establishing shots.
However, this is really the only thing I noticed as maybe not ringing true, well, apart from all the ridiculous, over the top stuff which is part and parcel of these kinds of films. And the movie does, of course, benefit from having another of Joseph Bishara’s marvellously effective horror scores. It’s got a slightly different tone from most of his other horror work, as did the score to the previous Conjuring movie he worked on and he really does quality and supportive work in this field. I just wish somebody would give him some other genres to work in so we can hear what else his compositional voice is capable of. Great score though and you can bet I’ll be snagging a CD when that’s released (in fact, it turns out it's only available on a proper physical format from US amazon so... head over to their website if you want a credible version of the music).
And that’s all I’ve got for this one. A generally spooky film which, although not quite as great as the first one in the series, certainly lives up to the former film’s reputation and it deserves the success it’s already garnering at the box office. Hopefully a rich box office will mean we can see Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as Ed and Lorraine sooner rather than later. It’s like they were born to play these characters and I certainly want to see more of them. If you liked the first movie or even you didn’t see that one, The Conjuring 2 - The Enfield Case is well worth some of your time if you’re a horror movie afficionado. A masterful approach to the subject material and I hope James Wan also comes back for a third go with these characters.