The Conjuring 2 as good as The Exorcist?

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I must admit, I was skeptical going into The Conjuring 2. While I enjoyed the first film, it was way overhyped. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson shine as Ed and Lorraine Warren. James Wan is clearly a master craftsman. However the story seems lacking. When all is said and done, it’s just another haunted house film. It’s nowhere near as innovative as films like It Follows or The Babadook. So with all that in mind, I entered the sequel with low expectations. I came out blown away, and elated by the delightful creepfest that is The Conjuring 2.

The film opens with the Warrens attempting to rid the Amityville house of evil spirits. Lorraine confronts the spectres in the basement. During her encounter with the ghosts, she has a vision of Ed’s death. This leads the couple to decide to stop taking cases.

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At the same time in Enfield, England, a family is at the mercy of a violent entity occupying their home. It has targeted the youngest daughter, turning her life into a living nightmare. The church requests the help of the Warrens. The Warrens, unable to ignore a family in need, rush to Enfield. They soon find themselves intertwined in one of the most famous and well documented hauntings in history.

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One of my favorite aspects of the film is the way it embraces the style of 70s horror. From the yellow titles, to the production design, and the plot, The Conjuring 2 is a love letter to films like The Sentinel and The Legend of Hell House. The 70s was arguably the best decade for horror films. Wan understands this and he manages to make his film feel like a product of a time gone by, rather than just an imitation.

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Another thing that The Conjuring 2 has going for it, is that it’s blood-curdling to the extreme. Wan knows how to create tension. One of my favorite scenes involves the Warrens attempting to contact the ghost that is tormenting the young girl. The girl tells them that the spirit won’t speak unless they turn around. With his back to the girl, Ed begins asking the spirit questions. The creaky voice of an old man begins to speak through the girl. Now this scene could’ve been shot in a thousand different ways. Wan chose to put Ed in the foreground, and the little girl in the background out of focus. As the entity begins to speak, the girl morphs into an old man. Of course all of this is blurry, so the details are left up to the viewers to imagine.

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At the center of all of this madness are Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. I’ve always found both of these actors to be quite charming. Together, their chemistry is palpable. Despite being defenders against evil, Wilson and Farmiga make the Warrens seem like normal people. Actually, they come off as kind of square. Some of my favorite moments in the movie are just the two of them talking. It’s a case of true love, if I’ve ever seen one.

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Finally, I need to address the theme of the film. This is an old fashioned good vs. evil flick. If the Catholic church was smart, they would’ve invested in The Conjuring 2. I don’t particularly identify with any religion, but there’s something nice about the idea that if your faith is strong enough it can drive away even the most vile of evils. It reminds me of the old Hammer films like The Horror of Dracula. Van Helsing was only able to defeat Dracula through the strength of his convictions. Lately, films have been reflecting society’s shift away from religion. Again, I’m not opposed to this, but sometimes it’s good to see things from another perspective.

One of the reasons The Conjuring 2 has been so successful, is that it holds appeal for all audiences. It’s artsy enough for the indie horror crowd, yet straightforward enough for mainstream movie-goers. Not to mention, it’s just flat out scary as hell! I don’t think it’s going too far to say that The Conjuring 2 is The Exorcist for a new generation.

P.S. Look at the letters on the bookshelf during Vera Farmiga’s vision.

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