"The Conjuring 2" Review: Wan is Back in the Zone!

Horror fans, indulge me for a moment. Think of all the elements that go into a masterful horror film: Nerve-jangling scares; a sense of dread permeating throughout; imagery that sticks with you and keeps you up at night; brilliant production design; a great score; believable performances; and yes, even genuine emotion.

It sounds too good to be true in today’s world, where fecal matter like Ouija, The Gallows, and The Forest clogs the toilet that is mainstream horror. Yet there is hope in the form of our savior, the almighty and all-knowing James Wan, who has come to show us the way. Wan has always been a master of his craft, as he has demonstrated in the original Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, but now he has perfected it. With The Conjuring 2, he has made a perfect horror film.

Yes. The Conjuring 2 is a perfect movie. As in, it has practically zero flaws.

Like its 2013 predecessor, The Conjuring 2 is set in the 1970s and delves into the so-called “true case files” of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively), a real-life husband-and-wife team of renowned demonologists. This time, the Warrens travel to Enfield, England, where a single mother (Frances O’Connor) and her four children are being tormented, possessed, and generally inconvenienced by a demonic presence.

What transpires at the Hodgson household is pretty standard stuff: A chair moving on its own, strange voices, bumps in the night. Of course, we’ve seen it all done before in plenty of other movies, but rarely have we seen it done so well. Like a certain Mr. Spielberg, Wan has a gift for manipulation, and not in a bad way—he meticulously crafts each individual moment for maximum effect, so that the audience is completely wrapped around his finger. The tension Wan creates is palpable, and while he often makes use of those dreaded jump scares, they never feel cheap and they always feel earned. The man simply knows what he’s doing.

He’s aided by terrific production design by Julie Berghoff and a spine-tingling score by Joseph Bishara. Both add authenticity to the period setting and an uncanny unease to the film’s atmosphere. Sweeping camerawork by director of photography Don Burgess glides placidly, putting the viewer on edge for what awaits just around the corner. And the performances—with standout turns once again by Wilson (TV’s Fargo) and Farmiga (TV’s Bates Motel)—bring humanity and heart to the spooky proceedings.

I loved this movie. As a horror fan, I want to shout it from the mountaintops: “The Conjuring 2 is not only the rare sequel that’s as good if not better than its predecessor, it’s a masterpiece of the genre!” It’s a rickety, demented funhouse ride that, despite its 135-minute running time, doesn’t overstay its welcome (unlike those pesky spirits). That’s quite an accomplishment. And though there have been some phenomenal indie horror films as of late, such as It Follows, The Babadook, and The Witch, James Wan is king as far as mainstream, wide-release horror goes. With all the heavenly blessings, I thank James Wan for turning down Fast 8 to direct this film. Horror is where he belongs.

Grade: A+