Following the release of the first "Conjuring" film, critical conversation strayed from the contents of the actual film to focus more on the "Based on True Events" marketing push. Lead characters Ed and Lorraine Warren were real-life paranormal investigators who wrote several books about their adventures in demonology.
The Warrens' most famous case was their involvement with The Amityville Horror house in 1976. They were sent to see if the Lutz Family genuinely were the victims of a violent, demonic presence, and the Warrens agreed completely that the house was evil. When the lawyer William Weber came forward in 1979 and said he fabricated the story with a few other people, it hurt the Warrens' credibility and made them somewhat of a cautionary tale. The Warren name is used in modern conversations as a reason NOT to believe in ghosts and demons.
Yet "The Conjuring" aimed for the impossible. It made the Warrens the heroic leads in a creepy little movie that became the highest grossing horror flick of the year. "The Conjuring 2" had an even tougher road to travel, not just because the original was so critically acclaimed, but also because the Warrens' name had been dragged through the mud all over again.
For the most part, "The Conjuring 2" succeeds admirably. The story of The Enfield Haunting is a good one. Single mother Peggy Hodgson is raising her four children in London when her youngest daughter starts making contact with the ghost of an angry and vengeful old man. Once things begin escalating, the Catholic Church sends the Warrens to seek verifiable proof.
The script smartly spends some time on the skeptic's side of things, showing the Warrens as almost embattled against all of the unbelievers. Over the years several "experts" have also debunked or tried to debunk The Enfield Haunting and the film goes out of its way to show how both the skeptics and believers can equally be correct.
The popular (or unpopular) opinion of Ed and Lorraine aside, the arguments about their authenticity don't amount to much if the movie isn't very scary. Audiences will forgive a less than accurate "Based on True Events" if the film transports them, and "The Conjuring 2" tries very hard to do so. Most of the typical loud noise jump scares are either well crafted mis-directions or genuinely effective fright moments.
The film is a solid 15 minutes too long: the pacing lags in the second act, and the ending feels a bit rushed and unearned. But so much horror today is garbage that this feels like a beautifully haunted oasis. Gore hounds will be disappointed since the film is a mostly bloodless classic haunted house story. However, for those with a taste for a slow-burning sense of dread and flawlessly photographed disturbing imagery, "The Conjuring 2" is a blast, whether it's true or not.
"The Conjuring 2"
Dir. James Wan
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX