Warning: This review contains spoilers.
For someone who loved the old-school horror vibe of The Conjuring, the sequel is barely memorable. It’s not about the performances. It’s not about the grim atmosphere. It’s not about the cinematography, editing or direction. It’s just that, after a pretty decent start, it loses steam big time towards the middle, and the viewer is left with little to care when things start to make more sense towards the end. The way in which this whole saga transpired is what disappointed me, as a viewer.
The first installment definitely towers over the sequel in almost every way. Much to the dismay of the viewer, the storyline itself seems like a toned-down rehash of their Rhode Island adventure from the first film. This time, the setting is Enfield, North London. Peggy Hodgson, a single mother of four seems to be experiencing the paranormal and the Warrens are called in to help. Lorraine seems to be undergoing some sort of psychological turmoil after the couple had dealt with the Amityville Haunting (the scenes of which are shown in the initial part of the movie). She seems to have this recurring vision of a Demon Nun haunting her and trying to harm her husband.
Much like the sequels in another series by James Wan, Insidious, this one too starts on a promising note. The first seance is well-executed and brings goosebumps for old-school horror junkies. The Demon Nun seemed good for a terrifyingly scary villain. Later, the scene shifts to England where we are introduced to the Hodgsons and a few scenes in the night involving the kids mostly waking to loud thuds, frightening noises, and toys moving by themselves. The jump-scares are decent, but they lack innovation. They are very straight-forward, in the sense, the viewer is able to predict exactly when they are going to happen.
A few fright-nights later, one of the kids, Janet, shows signs that she is possessed by a spirit of an old man who used to own the house they live in, and finally, the Warrens stop by. The scares are surprisingly low in the mid-portions and this is where the film falters in engrossing the viewer. The old man’s spirit is somewhat akin to the Freddy Krueger character. His presence might pose as a viable threat for a scene or two, but definitely not for a stretch lasting more than 45 minutes. Plus, more than just ghastly makeup effects, James Wan chooses to take the mechanical route and wants the viewer to ingest the paranormal existence the same way the kids in the film do. Unfortunately, that R-rating will make sure only adults see the film and I’m pretty confident when I say that many of us will find this mid-segment (or let’s say the connecting piece), downright dull.
The scenes involving the Demon Nun are highly intriguing as well as disconcerting, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed these bits. Much like the Lipstick-Face Demon from Insidious (2010), the Demon Nun possesses that X-factor fit for a daunting antagonist persona, gelling with the mood of the film perfectly. I was hoping to catch more petrifying scenes that showcased the Demon Nun’s presence but sadly, the entity disappears midway only to show up at the climax (as a supposed big twist, meh!). James Wan and his cinematographer Don Burgess try their best to juggle perspectives and angles inside the minimalist haunted-house setup. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) continue to appear an endearing couple plagued by the paranormal and their on-screen chemistry is splendidly portrayed. However, they could have benefited from a more revised screenplay that consistently maintained an unsettling vibe. The twins Chad & Carey Hayes, and James Wan himself contributed to the screenplay, apart from a later rewrite from David Leslie Johnson.
To put it bluntly, there is not a single scene in this film that sends chills down our spine such as the ‘hide-and-seek-clap’ sequence from the first film. A possessed Lili Taylor was much more intimidating than a possessed Madison Wolfe. The Perrons from Rhode Island warranted more attention than the Hodgsons from Enfield. Who knows, the Crooked Man toy may get even its own film, similar to Annabelle. For now, I am just gonna cling on to the first film and sincerely hope James Wan scores a winner the next time around.
**1/2 stars out of five
Watch the trailer here: