Terror Across the Pond: ‘The Conjuring 2’

Ed and Loraine Warren, the paranormal ghost-hunters based on real-life scam artists, are back and facing something new and darker in The Conjuring 2 as they journey to England to investigate a haunting that appears to be targeting a little girl.

A funny thing occurred to me after sitting through this move: The Conjuring and its sequel are probably the most entertaining Christian movies I’ve ever sat through. Sure, I’ve railed on and on about the likes of God’s Not Dead and Fireproof and its preachy awful ilk and how pandering and terrible they are, but if you really think about it, The Conjuring not only avoids being pandering and terrible, but it actually delivers a Christian message that doesn’t drive away all of the non-Christians in the audience such as myself. Honestly, even though I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in demons or hauntings either but I still love these movies every bit as much as I don’t believe in Wookies and Ewoks but still love Star Wars. Here, God is a weapon in a war against evil and it’s probably his most non-offensive and effective use. So, kudos to that God-Squad. You got me to sit through and enjoy a Christian movie.

This is also one of those rare and precious horror sequels where the followup is every bit as strong and scary as the first installment. The Conjuring was something special, that’s for sure. The Conjuring 2… every bit as much.

If I have to give a strong criticism against The Conjuring 2, it would be for The Crooked Man. In a movie stuffed with terrifying gags and practical effects, the choice to render The Crooked Man in outlandish CGI was a bad one that completely removed the audience from the moment. The crowd I was with sat in rapt silence as the evil nun or old man appeared on screen, but during the Crooked Man’s two appearances, all I heard were giggles and I can’t blame them a bit for it because I was giggling with them.

Note: Some time after I wrote this review, I learned that the Crooked Man was not CGI, but rather a practical effect with an actor playing the Man. My face is red and I apologize, retracting my ignorant criticism.

Still, if you want a strong haunted house movie, The Conjuring 2 delivers expertly using darkness and shadow and the audiences own insidious imaginations against them. This is a movie that knows that, to truly scare an audience, you have to make them love the characters and the movie makes you love them, warts and all. You love the overworked mother, the children, and Ed and Lorraine. These are characters who care about each other and seem more real than the “edgy” characters that seem to keep getting pooped out into these movies. Not once did I think, “Oh, I hope that guy dies” like I did in Sinister 2 or the last Paranormal Activity movie – it’s the Poltergeist effect. Make the audience love your characters and then make the characters go through Hell.

The Conjuring 2, like its predecessor, is mature horror. Good characters dealing with horrible circumstances, expertly directed for maximum dread and fright, and topped off with a satisfying climax. Sure, there are flaws, but they are brief and they are few. This is the kind of scary movie that I love and I cannot wait for the next terrifying chapter of this story.

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