This isn't supposed to be your average haunting. The fact that the Hodgson family are poor and English is supposed to make a difference. But actually, they still live in a typical house with large bedrooms full of things to smash, a living room with a spooky rocking chair in the corner, and the all-important set of stairs that can creak whenever anything (supernatural or otherwise) steps on them. The accents might be different and the walls could do with a lick of paint, but this is still your average haunted house movie.
As a result, director James Wan feels like he’s repeating himself, ticking off tropes (Ouija boards, zoetrope, demonic voices) and coming up with little that is surprising. It's lucky then that Wan is such an accomplished director, especially when it comes to the look of the film. Returning to horror after his brief foray into mega-budget blockbuster territory on Furious 7 (and expertly bringing back Paul Walker from the dead) Wan is on safe, familiar, but fantastic form. There’s an over-reliance on cranking out frequent LOUD NOISES for jump scares, but the cinematography, sound design, score and editing are all generally impressive.
If you've seen the Insidious films or the previous Conjuring film, you'll realise that this is a film haunted by plenty of old tricks. Fortunately, that doesn't make it any less tense. That's mostly down to Wan’s technical mastery, but it's also due to the characters. After a fairly pointless prologue in the infamous Amityville house, it is an hour before the returning Warrens actually get involved with the Hodgson family in their Enfield home. That gives us plenty of time to be creeped out by poltergeist activity, possession, and demonic nuns. The kids are petrified, while single mum Peggy (Frances O’Connor) is at a loss as to how to deal with the menacing presence.
Even though they might be terrorised throughout, this is a horror film with an incredibly low body count. Perhaps that explains the Amityville prologue, which offers a bit of blood before the slow burn spooky scares of the remainder of the film. Wan is a director that can do these kinds of scares with his eyes closed, but what he needs is a better script to help him back up to his peak.
Despite its ‘cor blimey’ characters and economically deprived family, The Conjuring 2 is a very generic haunted house movie only slightly elevated by Wan’s extremely confident handling of the material. It will scare the socks off you in the cinema, but it won’t haunt you all the way home. Recommended for fans of the first, but don’t expect anything as clever as Wan’s Saw.
THE CONJURING 2 / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JAMES WAN / SCREENPLAY: CAREY HAYES, CHAD HAYES, JAMES WAN, DAVID JOHNSON / STARRING: VERA FARMIGA, PATRICK WILSON, FRANKA POTENTE, MARIA DOYLE KENNEDY / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 17TH
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10