Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Conjuring 2

Title: The Conjuring 2

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: 

Lisa: "It chose to destroy itself rather than live with us. You can't help but feel a little rejected."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three and a half David Soul singles out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis:
 Evil spirit would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling demonologists.

Tagline: "The next true story from the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren."

Better Tagline: "Bullshit or not?"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Ghost hunters Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, having successfully dealt with all manner of domestic specters, are off across the Pond to deal with a pretty pesky poltergeist that is terrorizing the Hodgson family in Enfield. The spirit proves elusive, and Lorraine worries this assignment may be the one that finally kills her stalwart husband.

"Critical" Analysis: The Conjuring 2 takes place six years after the events of the first movie. It's 1977, which not only allows us to enjoy some hilarious Carter/Thatcher-era fashion, but also affords the opportunity to briefly peek in on one of the Warrens' more notorious cases, the haunting in Amityville, Long Island. When we first see the Warrens in C2, they're conducting a séance in which Lorraine experiences the DeFeo murders, encounters the demon that may be behind the whole thing, and sees a vision of Ed's death. Like its predecessor, The Conjuring 2 insists it's "based on true events," which is accurate…insofar as five people were murdered in Amityville and the Hodgsons did report mysterious disturbances in Enfield, England.

And also like its predecessor, it's a nifty little haunted house tale. James Wan is pretty damn good at both building tension and throwing something up on screen just to scare the shit out of the audience. The film is beautifully shot (even if you'll want to buy everyone involved some decent 100-watt light bulbs), Madison Wolfe (as Janet Hodgson) is a much more seasoned actress than her age would suggest, and Wilson and Farmiga are *way* better than is necessary for the largely formulaic material.

You've been down this road before. Things start off innocuously enough, as Janet sleepwalks to the same spot in the house, for example, and TV channels change spontaneously, which most of us these days would just blame on AT&T connection issues. That is, until a dreadful apparition appears, taking a special interest in young Janet. Its increasing hostility forces the family to replace all the kids' Bay City Rollers posters with crucifixes, eventually prompting the intervention of the Warrens.

Wan capably harnesses the cumulative effects of layering supernatural horror over family crisis. Mrs. Hodgson (Frances O'Connor) is dealing with the strain of raising five kids alone following the buggering off (to use the local idiom) of their father, and the stress of that situation leads down interesting paths: Is Janet faking? Is this all a clever tactic to secure public assistance? It would be a bold move in Thatcher's England, except we the audience are meant to accept the Warrens' diagnosis of supernatural shenanigans. 

We can acknowledge the quality of the film while decrying the subject matter as utter horseshit, just as we can brush aside the use of the Clash's "London Calling" in a movie set two years before the song's release (a possibly much more egregious oversight). Still, you'd think decades of debunking would settle the Warrens' hash once and for all. Then again, judging by the horrified gasps in the audience when a homemade Ouija board showed up in the promo screening, not to mention the current Republican Presidential nominee, rational thought isn't our strong suit.

And there's really no reason to perpetuate this nonsense, because Warner Bros could milk this formula for years (and probably should; the first Conjuring is one of the highest-grossing horror movies of all time). Never mind that there are only about two more actual Warren files to exploit, CBS has flogged that idiotic Scorpion show, which is "based on" the real life of another liar (Walter O'Brien) for 46 episodes. Drop the pretense of historical accuracy and go nuts.

Because whatever your thoughts on the occult or the existence of demons, Wan and company commit 100 percent. Ed and Lorraine are True Believers, which interestingly means the Conjuring movies will likely end up a couple of the most successful — and most covert — faith-based films of the past decade. But that's a discussion for The Conjuring 3.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar