James Wan, a now household name on the horror scene is quickly becoming the new-age master of horror. 2007’s ‘Dead Silence’ set the pace for Wan’s success managing to tap in to people’s fears and adding a new dimension to horror films, sometimes what isn’t on screen is just as terrifying as what IS on screen. My personal take on James Wan is that he is a pioneer of allowing the viewers to fear their own imaginations as much as being scared of the various ‘jumps and screams’ displayed.
The Conjuring 2 is a prime example of such a technique, don’t get me wrong the scares are in abundance, some fairly scripted and others not so but it’s the scenes that allow my own imagination to take over is where this film really starts to get under my skin.
Its predecessor was a master class in film making, calculated scares and well thought out plot however as scary as it managed to be you can’t help feel that ultimately it had a hint of ‘by the numbers’ about it. I remember there being nothing flash about it but every detail was executed in a clinical text book horror fashion. The Conjuring 2 while staying fairly linear feels to me like it has a number of layers.
The Conjuring 2 focuses on ‘The Enfield Haunting’ a world renowned case of poltergeist activity in England 1977. The Enfield Haunting hit the media like a firestorm, nothing like this had ever been reported before or covered by the media, pockets of ‘evidence’ added to the intrigue around the case and rumours quickly surfaced that the Enfield Haunting was nothing more than an elaborate hoax. It affected the Hodgson family, Janet Hodgson at the time 11 years old being the centre of the activity. Peggy Hodgson a single mum, was raising her 4 children, father had left the family some years ago, one thing that is evident from both the film and real life is that this family were alone and terrified of what was happening in their own house.
Maurice Grosse a member of a paranormal research organisation, the Society for Psychical Research was the first to start documenting the occurrences in the house, his evidence is readily available on the net including pictures and recordings. Maurice was not the only person to visit, the police, neighbours, and demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren would all grace the house. Of course a sceptic would also visit and dismiss all of the evidence as false and even more so when Janet had admitted to ‘faking’ some of the occurrences. Whether you believe the case or not listening to Janet talking as ‘Bill’, the alleged spirit possessing her, is truly spine tingling.
The film itself follows as close as it possibly could to the case, obviously it has been given a hint of ‘Hollywood’ but there is something very primal about the feel of the film, the setting is low key, 90% of the film is focused in the house, it has a feeling of emptiness and cold, maybe a reflection on the current financial situation of the family. Walls are peeling the cupboards are empty and each room seems to embrace darkness completely including the dilapidated basement. Even shots carried outside the premises are bleak – the weather is almost always miserable which just cements the feeling of being trapped in the house, with it being 1977 there are not that many cars on the roads and this is reflected by how many cars on the street again reinforcing loneliness.
The scene’s that give a bit of back story regarding the Warren’s are particularly eerie, for once we see a vulnerable side to the duo, the cases they are willingly getting involved in clearly taking a toll on their family. Some of the scenes captured from their family home are simply horrific and ‘the nun’ is enough to give you prolonged nightmares. The character of Maurice is also developed nicely, at first seen almost as a nuisance and paranormal fanatic yet when his motivation is revealed you can’t help but root for his cause.
I cannot recommend The Conjuring 2 enough, if by now you know whether Wan’s films are for you then this is simply another stunner from a man that clearly knows how to terrify his audience. I’m a true fan of The Enfield case which helped my overall enjoyment of the film, it stays true to the back-story and some of the scares are sculpted straight from the evidence built by Grosse himself.