The Conjuring 2 opens with the well-known Amityville case which took place in the late 1970s. The Warrens are gathered in the living room where a seance is about to begin. Lorraine goes into a trance which reminds me of The Further where she witnesses Ronald DeFeo murdering his own family of six with a shotgun. An intense segment that surpasses most of the countless Amityville films alone. Lorraine gets led down the cellar where she gets attacked by a creepy nun (yes, The Nun) that looks like the twin sister of Marilyn Manson and is about to see the most terrifying thing in her life. This is as close to Hell I ever wanna get, Lorraine says after waking up from the trance while sobbing in Ed’s arms. She’s had enough and wants to retire. Dream on, lady, cuz London is calling.
We then meet the struggling and freshly divorced mother Peggy Hodgson with her four kids who lives in a council house in the town of Enfield, north of London where the strong odor of black mold hits you like a brick. So does the old, brown leather chair that rots in the corner of the living room. The economy is in the toilet, times are bleak, and the only joy in life is to chew on biscuits while Margaret Thatcher is on TV bragging about her red dress. Things haven’t changed much.
Anyway, in order to avoid dying of total boredom under the already dire circumstances, the two daughters, Janet and Margaret, have made themselves a cute little spirit board to do exactly what it’s for. Janet starts to sleepwalk around the house and finds herself in the chair in the living room. She starts to behave like a Regan by growling and speaking in a raspy man’s voice and mumbling things like This is MY house! This, of course, scares her older sisters shitless, whom she shares the bedroom with and suggests that maybe it’s best to sleep with the lights on.
One of the sons in the house is also experiencing some creepy stuff at night, such as his toys starting to move by themselves and someone shouting BLAEEEEEERGHH from the tent in the hallway.
After Janet behaves more like she’s under the influence of some serious possession, the Hodgsons is being visited by a group of local paranormal investigators, lead by Maurice Grosse. The skeptic and psychologist Anita Gregory is also on the spot, who can’t wait to debunk the whole thing as a hoax. In real-life she described the Enfield case as “greatly exaggerated” and “pathetic”.
We soon learn that the entity who has claimed the meat suit of Janet is a fellow named Bill Wilkins, and that he’s an old, grumpy man straight from the grave who only wants his house back. And while our experts scratch their heads and bollocks and don’t know what to do, the case goes to Ed and Lorraine Warren. Lorraine is very reluctant to do another case due to what she saw in the cellar in the Amityville house, while Ed is ready for action like a kid on Christmas Eve. And it also happens to be around Christmastime. How convenient.
And here’s a quick history class: Guy Lyon Playfair, one of the original paranormal investigators on The Enfield Poltergeist Case who worked alongside with Maurise Grosse, came forward prior to the movie’s release and said that the Warrens had showed up “uninvited” and only stayed for a day. Ed, on the other hand, claimed that he visited the place three times by himself while Lorraine was home presumably feeding her roosters. So who’s lying?
One of the few facts we can take from the film is Bill Wilkins, who lived in the house before the Hodgsons and had died of a brain hemorrhage while he sat in the chair we see in the film. This has been confirmed by his son, Terry. Other than this, there’s no info to find about this poor old bloke Billy, and no gravestones were vandalized this time.
The family’s mother, Peggy, kept living in the house until she died in 2003. Rumors say that she died in the same chair as Bill. That’s grim. So its appropriate to ask if it was the chair all along that was the cursed villain here and why Ed didn’t claim the chair to bring it home to his occult museum so we could have the spin-off The Chair, from the producers of Killer Sofa.
Now, back to the movie:
Yeah, so what more is there to say other than “if you liked the first one you’d also like this?” This one has longer screen time which ticks over two hours, but thanks to James Wan being the master of suspense that he is, it flew away in a ghoulish heartbeat. While the story isn’t the strongest, this is still a rock-solid and highly entertaining sequel. A first-class ghost ride filled with atmosphere, great scares, and James Wan’s unique ability to manipulate us to get the sense of something evil lurking in every corner despite we don’t see it. All performances are solid all the way and they also really nailed the look of Maurice Grosse.
I also like how they re-created the house of the Hodgsons with the grim 1970s esthetics and the fugly posters on the girl’s bedroom walls. If the film itself was shot on film instead of digital, the film would look like it was straight from that decade alongside with The Exorcist and The Omen.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Nun character, even though she was a creepy enough presence in this film and overall has a great look. The shot of her standing in the narrow hallway in Warren’s home where their daughter Judy points at her in pure shock is a scary and eerie moment. Too bad that the two spinoffs of hers have completely desensitized her creep factor, at least for my part, so I’m not alone blaming the character. The scene where Lorraine gets attacked by her in Ed’s office room, in some very creative and suspenseful fashion that only James Wan could pull off, is the creepiest scene you’d ever get with The Nun.
Then we have The Crooked Man, where I every time have to remind myself that he isn’t CGI, but actually a guy in a costume. The actor’s name is Javier Botet and has worked a lot with Guillermo del Toro.
The Conjuring 2 was also a hUUUge success, but despite that, James Wan hasn’t directed much other than two DC films. He returned to horror with the awesome Malignant in 2021, which was very much panned and ridiculed because people expected a new Conjuring. As for now, he seems more comfortable as a producer. In 2021 we also got the third installment The Conjuring: The Alcohol Made Me Do It, most known for not being directed by Wan. The fourth one with the undertitle The Last Rites is under pre-production, which looks to be a crossover with The Nun. Can’t say that I’m too excited…
Also check out the miniseries The Enfield Haunting from 2015 if you want a considerably more faithful film adaptation of the case.
Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, James Wan
Country & year: US, UK, 2016
Actors: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Robin Atkin Downes, Bonnie Aarons, Javier Botet