Conjuring up a fright, again

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By Paul Hall

Three years ago, we took a peek into the files of noted paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring. Now, we dig deeper into those files as the couple investigates “England’s Amityville” in The Conjuring 2.

One of the most documented cases in paranormal history takes place in a simple home with the Hodgson family. Single mom Peggy (Frances O’Connor) is raising her two daughters and two sons in the modest home. They are struggling to get by and Peggy is doing everything possible to keep life normal for her kids. When one daughter, Janet (Madison Wolfe), starts exhibiting strange behaviors within the home, the family slowly figures out that there is something or someone in the house with them.

As a number of media sources start to investigate the house, speculation grows. What is really happening there? The church does not want to get involved, but they ask investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to observe and report back. Because it is the church making the request and the disturbance in question is affecting kids, the Warrens reluctantly agree to travel from their United States home and get involved.

The demon they find in this residence across the pond will frighten and disturb them in a unique and unheard-of way. But could this be the case where the doubters win out? Could this be too much for these seasoned investigators, or will they be able to overcome yet another frightening encounter?

When the first film came out in 2013, it took many, myself included, by surprise. Director James Wan found a way to give us a truly scary film — one that burrowed under my skin and into my core. With sequels, we tend to lose the magic that made the first film effective, but Wan’s storytelling in this go-round made my leg hairs stand up as much as on the first trip with the Warrens. He is able to avoid cheap scares in favor of a slow and emotional build that elicits chills.

The casting is wonderful with Farmiga and Wilson in the roles of the Warrens. They are stoic, yet believe in their faith at the core of their being, and that belief enables them to stay strong in the face of some of the spookiest spirits in the film.

Filling the family with kids who are ordinary and extraordinary at the same time allows the audience to believe the terror the kids are feeling, almost like experiencing their fear firsthand.

There are some lighter moments that allow us to unclench the armrest and calm down for a bit so that we can truly experience the next hair-raising moment. It’s these breaks that enhance the scares and make them deliver a knockout punch.

I was truly skeptical that this film could live up to its predecessor, but I’m happy to say that by using an old-school scare-your-mind philosophy, The Conjuring 2 is as disturbing as any film in the genre. They got this one right, and as I think about the fact that this film is based on the Warrens’ actual files, my leg hairs are standing on end yet again. The Conjuring 2 is conjuring up a new fright — that is a very good thing.

The Conjuring 2
Rated: R
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe
Director: James Wan
Grade: B+

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