Thursday, 02 February 2023

'The Conjuring 2' summons the scares of Enfield haunting


With accomplished director James Wan once again at the helm of a supernatural thriller, “The Conjuring 2” brings the same feeling of dread that permeated the original story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren doing their best to help a family in need.

To say that “The Conjuring 2” is a sequel to the first film would be akin to calling “The Amityville Horror,” the 1979 original, a sequel to 1973’s “The Exorcist.” The only common denominator is the existence of pure evil in a ghostly state.

“The Conjuring 2” is described as “based upon a true story,” and indeed, there is plenty of documentation, through various means, that something terribly wrong was happening at a council house in North London back in 1977.

Others may claim that it would be more appropriate to say “loosely based” on a true story at best, if not to describe the events as a hoax or, at the very least, a fabrication built upon a series of unexplained incidents that don’t merit a mystical designation.

But first, the film opens with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who considered themselves demonologists rather than ghost hunters while conducting a postmortem séance at the Long Island house where the Amityville haunting unfolded.

The traumatic experience of confronting a demonic vision during this dinner table communication with the dead causes Lorraine to thereafter continuously sense the apparition of a malevolent force that represents pure evil.

With the effects of Long Island still haunting them, the Warrens come out of a self-imposed sabbatical in late 1977 and travel to England to take on a vile demonic entity that has taken root in the home of single mom Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children.

Apparently, the Warrens are unable to resist a case of children in peril. The two oldest children are the first to encounter the strange events. In particular, 11-year-old Janet (Madison Wolfe) suffers the greatest harm from a ghostly force intent on frightening everyone.

Janet’s 13-year old sister Margaret (Lauren Esposito), sharing the same bedroom, is also most directly affected by the onset of mystical happenings, witnessing her sibling’s nightmares and eventual levitations as well as the strange noises and moving of objects.

The two younger brothers, 10-year-old Johnny (Patrick McAuley) and 7-year-old Billy (Benjamin Haigh) are also tormented by a ghostlike creature that calls itself Bill Wilkins and insists with great malice in his voice that the Hodgson family must leave his house.

Prior to the arrival of the Warrens, the Hodgson home had attracted the attention of the media and had been frequented by police, with one officer, Carolyn Heeps, filing a report stating unequivocally that she witnessed a chair moving across the room on its own power.

Others coming to the scene of the unexplained happenings included parapsychologist Anita Gregory (Franka Potente), a skeptic who is unmoved by any evidence of the mystical, and paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney), who finds reason to believe.

The necessity of intervention brings the Warrens to the house, first for the purpose of obtaining enough proof of demonic possession that they would be able to convince the Catholic Church of the essential obligation to conduct an exorcism.

As to be expected in a well-crafted horror film, which James Wan is perfectly suited to achieve, the suspense builds nicely as the strange occurrences take on greater menace with the ghost possessing Janet such that he gives voice to the irrational complaints of a bitter old man.

Though care is taken to record Janet’s possessed voice, skeptics continue to suggest the Hodgson family had created an elaborate hoax, either for publicity or fortune, which if the latter were true, you’d think a move to a nicer home would have happened with haste.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the terror on display is that even the Warrens, experienced as they were in dealing with the paranormal, demonstrated fear in the face of an element of danger that could have come from a demonic force.

To be sure, there is no need to have seen “The Conjuring,” which was set in a haunted Rhode Island farmhouse, while this second film is a wholly different story in a foreign land. Both films, though, rely on suspense and scares rather than unrelenting gore and blood.

The saving grace for “The Conjuring 2” is that the characters are uniformly interesting as they grapple with the extremely disturbing events. Moreover, it’s a scary movie without going overboard. It’s likely to prove to be one of the best horror movies of the year.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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