"After everything we've seen, there isn't much that rattles either of us anymore. But this one … this one still haunts me"- Lorraine Warren
Ed and Lorraine make the scene at the Amityville house, where of course we get the standard Defoe murders - exploiting that never gets old right? - the spooky kids, and strangely a freaky looking Nun in the basement who foreshadows something, get ready for some Lorraine scream queen action. Later she forces Ed to agree to not do any more cases and to simply do the lecture circuit. We actually do see one lecture, because they are on the circuit right, and it involves a somewhat heated argument between Ed and Stephen Kaplan, more on that later.
Naturally Lorraine isn't going to get her wish of non-involvement as the Church, or some mythical organisation masquerading as "the Church", wants Ed and Lorraine to fly out to England to investigate some poltergeist activity going down in a council house in Brimsdown Enfield. Soon the Warrens are winging their way to Enfield quick sweet as no one in England apparently has a clue about things that go bump in the night. Ghostly shenanigans ensue with the only people really able to help the family being the Warrens, after Ed makes a quick and implausible deduction. However is it poltergeist activity or a hoax or is something even more deranged going down? It's Ed and Lorraine to the rescue, hold onto your disbelief till after the end credits, and get ready for some jump scares.
First to the elephant in the room, Conjuring 2 is based on a real story and taken from the Warren case files, unfortunately for the gullible both claims are false and makes one wondering about the ethics or lack of basic ethics by the people involved in making this movie. Firstly yes there is documented evidence of the Enfield poltergeist, including as dramatized in the movie a Police Woman, WOC Carolyn Heeps, who gave testimony she saw a chair move by itself. Now whether or not the whole case was a hoax I leave to your own belief system, for the record I'm with Anita Gregory and John Beloff (Professors of Psychology), and view the incident as staged for the benefit or reporters. As to the Warrens involvement, we have the evidence of Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair from the Society for Psychical Research who actually conducted the investigation into the case. Both have stated Ed Warren turned up one day uninvited, spent the day with literally dozens of others at the house, and then left with Ed pinioning to Maurice that he could make a lot of money from the case, which kind of makes a certain statement in the movie ironic in the extreme. To be blunt the Warrens wouldn't know the truth if it bite them on the arse and have made a living out of shilling the rubes and those folk who want to believe. Careful with that banjo Jim Bob, it might get caught in them there overalls!
To the movie itself, apart from an overall reliance on jump scares, we're talking a superb horror show that builds its tension and scares in a concerted effort to get under the skin of the audience. Festivities get underway in the Amityville House, you know giant pig central, as Lorraine goes into a trance and effortlessly sees the DeFoe murders because director James Wan isn't about to let anything like an actual family tragedy deter him from his movie, that would exploitation by any other name. Anyways the actual family murders have zilch to do with the Conjuring 2, along with a couple of other scenes in the House, but Lorraine runs into a deadly Nun in the basement, and well this is as close to Hell as she wants to get. So we have a whole prologue that actually does nothing much except throw on a demonic Nun and lead Lorraine to request the Warrens' cutback on investigations of a supernatural kind.
Naturally Ed listens to Lorraine's concerns right up to the Church asking the Warrens for their help in determining the legitimacy of the Enfield case. Needless to say the Catholic Church would have zero to do with a shady couple like the Warrens, but this doesn't stop James Wan from making this claim in both Conjuring movies. Yes the Catholic Church doesn't have its own investigation division, no Jesuits, and heck no Exorcists. Anyways off to merry old England the Warrens jet, that would be an England without its own paranormal investigators etc. etc. Because the Warrens are like awesome, supernatural superheroes apparently, they soon determine the Enfield poltergeist is one Bill Wilkins, but is that the whole story, queue dramatic music.
As a movie The Conjuring 2 works fine as a piece of fiction, it hits some horror notes and keeps us rolling to the overly trite conclusion. As stated above the whole Ed versus demonic forces is a journey into subplot that really doesn't do much, and for the first time in a James Wan movie is clumsily handled. We get one weird interview prior to the festivities in England where the Warrens are up against Stephen Kaplan, a noted critic of the whole Amityville hoax. Naturally nothing is thrown at the screen to disprove Kaplan's claims of a hoax, beyond Ed going all alpha male over perceived attacks on his wife. Overall I was left slightly confused by the subplots, they really added jack to the movie flow and could be perceived as filler.
What I did like was the authenticity of England under the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, times were grim and the boldly right wing lunatic fringe were in charge. Okay anyone versed in music is going to be able to say certain songs, for example The Hollies Bus Stop wasn't informing public consciousness in the late 1970s, but otherwise everything seemed authentic, including the dreary slightly decaying life the put upon Hodgson clan lead. Oh and we also find out Ed can lay down an Elvis track pretty solidly, as the oh so convenient guitar is called into service and is never mentioned again.
Once again Wan knocks it out of the ball park behind the camera, I didn't see anything your average Reviewer could raise problems about, besides the claims of "based on a true story", a tad too many jump scenes, some unbelievable deductions, and some sub plots that pretty much are left out to dry. Helping the Aussie director are Patrick Wilson (Ed) and Vera Farmiga (Lorraine) who have smouldering chemistry happening throughout and the cast members playing the Hodgson clan who nailed it as real. No one stands out as being unnecessary to the plot or overly interested in staring into the camera. Wan proves, if we didn't already know, to have a real knack for film making, and twisting the screw on the audience.
For mine there are simply too many threads going down in the narrative to make for an intense movie. Sure there are some very solid horror concepts happening, albeit with a slight feeling of having been there seen that, but they are somewhat diluted as the movie moves between being a good old fashion ghost outing and something slightly more demonic. This movie could have been split into two without much in the way of losing plot flow, and in fact improving on what we do get, but hey at least we are going to get yet another spin off in the Conjuring universe. While I might be a tad harsh here, I still enjoyed the movie while finding issues with how things flowed, there was simply too much being thrown into the broth which diluted the flavour.
Throughout this review I have probably sounded as if I had real problems with The Conjuring 2, quite the contrary I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Enfield and have no problems with recommending the movie to anyone unfortunate enough to be reading. James Wan throws on a master class in horror, delivering the tropes, and underlying his standing as a dark genre auteur. I'm even going to put it out there, the sequel surpasses the original and is one of the standouts of 2016. If you are after something to perhaps give you a few disturbed nights then The Conjuring 2 will deliver some nasty moments.