‘The Conjuring 2’ – Tense, forbidding atmosphere provides scares

Vera Farmiga (left), Simon McBurney, Abhi Sinha, Frances O'Connor, and Patrick Wilson appear in a scene from New Line Cinema's "The Conjuring 2" by director James Wan. (AP)

A malevolent force can be innocently deceitful in director James Wan’s “The Conjuring 2,” an enjoyably frightful supernatural horror from New Line Cinema. Based on true events, the film follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, husband and wife, as the two try to save a family from the return of a dark, vengeful spirit.

Timothy Hogg

Timothy Hogg

Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) have decided on a self-imposed break after experience horrifying, unsettling events during their investigation of a house in Amityville, New York. But to Ed’s discomfort, Lorraine is relentlessly being pursued by the visions of a demonic force. These fears boil to the surface when the Hodgsons, a family from Enfield, England, find their home invaded by a dangerous spirit, and need the Warren’s help. Ed and Lorraine soon face their most disturbing case as they try to save an eleven-year-old girl (Madison Wolfe) from the ghost.

Based on true events surrounding the Enfield Poltergeist of the late 1970s, “The Conjuring 2” sets out to again capture the haunting atmosphere of its predecessor, and to this effect the film greatly succeeds. Wan’s direction results in absolutely creepy cinematography, taking advantage of the dark, forbidding atmosphere provided by the set, and the dreary, rainy English community.

Some of the camera angles and shots are able to draw the audience through long takes and altered focus, leaving viewers tense with anticipation. The film is rather well paced and does not feel lengthy compared to its 134 minute run time; the filmmakers have utilized the story and interesting characters to keep the audience invested, and as a result the film moves quickly. Wolfe and the other child actors are convincing in their roles, and Farmiga and Wilson feel natural and believable.

The audience gets the impression that these characters are truly devoted to their investigation, and terrified of the consequences they may face. And as the narrative advances, the deeper elements of the story become more obvious. Unfortunately, what began as a strong story ends up utilizing some rather uninspiring plot directions, leaving several minor faults upon the final film.

While much attention is given to develop the characters and use them to advance the plot, eventually the story reaches a point where the writers needed to tie together the loose ends and reach the climax. Consequently, the final act of the film feels rather rushed, and somewhat contrived; the characters serendipitously stumble across plot-necessary information. It doesn’t seriously detract from the film overall, but seems misplaced compared to the earlier, well-done scary tone.

Piecing together a group of well-developed characters within a tense, frightening atmosphere, “The Conjuring 2” provides a wealth of thrills and pulse-pounding moments of horror. Although the plot comes together almost a little too conveniently near the end, director James Wan makes the most of dappled shadows and dark, eerie sets, wrapping the audience in fast-paced terror. The film is a successful blend of talented filmmakers and convincing actors, spinning a gripping pallet of horror.

My grade: 7.5 out of 10 stars.

(Timothy Hogg is a copy editor for The Derrick./The News-Herald. He has a minor in film and media studies from Slippery Rock University. Readers may contact him by email at timothyhogg.thederrick@gmail.com.)