I went to see The Conjuring 2- actually in a movie theater! With other people! (That hasn’t happened in a long time.) It was definitely fun to have the communal experience of people holding their breath, curling into a little ball in their seat, and screaming around me. (I am terrible, and can’t help but giggle at the jump scares, even though I am a total sucker for them. It’s been a while since I’ve had the experience of being well and truly heart-poundingly scared during a movie. [Rec] was the last one that managed it.)
The problem with pushing the angle that your movie is “based on a true story!” when it centers around hauntings and possession is that, for us skeptics, you have just made it that much harder to suspend disbelief and dive into the frightening aspects of the movie. And really, at some point we must decide that we’ve gotten all the leverage out of the “true story” (cough HOAX cough) of The Amityville horror that we’re gonna get. (This movie did not revolve around that particular ghost tale, but it was used as an opening gambit, and featured the paranormal researchers that also figured into that story.)According to IMDB, one theater even brought in a priest to “counsel” moviegoers if the felt the need after watching it. My eyes, they do roll, even if it was a genius bit of marketing.
There were some absolutely stunning cinematic moments of pretty. (I was particularly fond of the sequence that made use of paintings and shadows.) But as beautiful as they were, a lot of the scary moments seemed just a bit too predictable to be truly frightening. I found the plot of the movie to be meandering and plodding, I was getting bored and wondering how the two different story lines were going to be pulled together somewhere around the halfway point of the movie. I started thinking that what I truly wanted was an abstract, experimental movie with all of the typical “horror” sequences cut together. In general, I would be a fan of more abstract experimental horror movies- but alas, the pressures of money and marketing mean we must have a well defined plot to hang on to.
I have said for a while that I am really wanting someone to come up with a new and interesting design for the ghosts, demons, etc. in haunting type movies. Long hair, pale, dark eyes and lips seems to have become the popular new template. In The Conjuring 2, we get a Marilyn Manson look alike in a nun costume. meh. Where’s HR Geiger when you need him? The “twist” was...interesting, but unfortunately the movie had pretty much lost my interest by the time it was revealed.
The acting was well done, I was especially impressed with the young girl who played Janet. (It's just so easy for child actors to fall into the trap of being too precocious and annoying. This child was believable and likeable.) The relationship portrayed between Ed and Lorraine Warren was lovely, if a bit saccharine at times. A character struggling with their faith seems par for the course in this type of movie, but it felt the writing in this one was verging uncomfortably close to proselytizing. The idea of believing a young girl who says she is experiencing horrific things is such a powerful and important idea, but unfortunately in this movie it falls flat. (And while the character of Ed Warren in the movie claims that spirits often come to houses where there is “negative energy,” the truth is that many a haunting or poltergeist has been claimed not because there is a malevolent spirit, but because there may be a troubled child calling out for attention and help in any way they can.)