Quick-Thoughts: James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • 2nd Viewing

The most shocking thing though is that The Conjuring 2 really is an improvement upon its predecessor… and then that finale happens. 

I forgot how bitchin’ the opening of this film is, with Lorraine mimicking a possessed father-killer through her Professor-X superpowers; can’t forget about the whole one-take conversation between Ed and Bill Wilkins too; they’re probably the two highlight scenes of the film for me! Anyways, all of Wan’s usual camera-tricks as mentioned in my review of the first Conjuring have very much been applied to this sequel, so a big 👍s-up to that, but what I truly believe is the real strong-point of this second installment actually has to do with something for which was my biggest drawback of the original: the thematic relevancy. Not only is the Hodgson family fleshed-out to quite the substantial rate in The Conjuring 2 in greater comparison to the Perron family, but there’s a substantial amount of emotional gravity to how they go about the situation that lacked in the original. 

I appreciate how this sequel delves into the concept of how pivotal it is to be positive during moments of crisis, or how demanding it is to psychologically condition ourselves into throwing fears under the bus by understanding their childish intentions, therefore, not letting them become effective in definition, and while this characteristic of the second Conjuring may have been executed a bit rudimentarily, it’s undoubtedly competent enough to be persuasive given the heftier number of times the film treats us with scenes to really hammer it in. 

However, I do somewhat dislike how the writers attempted to weave Ed and Lorraine into these themes, especially when we depart into the third act. There’s something so damn exhausting about the whole pre-vision to a destined tragedy cliché (Revenge of the Sith (2005) moment) that gets on my nerves when it’s clearly there just to upset the main characters with confrontational affections of love for which you think they would’ve felt beforehand naturally (without the ridiculous Nun visions) after so many years of ghostbusting and after LITERALLY the events of the first Conjuring. Pathos ain’t easy to write, man, and the climax of The Conjuring 2 abuses it to an absolute bloody pulp — shoutout to those ridiculous closing doors. Don’t even get me started on how the film decides to furthermore go down the kids’-movie-familiar “togetherness is key” route by its ending; a big yikes to whoever wrote that in! 

But holy unholy, can we talk about how the issue to this entire story gets resolved? The dropped, concurring video tapes thing is one thing, and I won’t even get into Wilkin’s last-minute necessity of knowledge, but are you telling me that the Nun’s one weakness (which ends up lazily being not only a weakness, but the conclusive defeat of it) is calling her by her name? So why in the hell would the Nun tell you her name in the first place, for which she does to Lorraine who she’s trying to traumatize and win control over? Granted, I guess the Nun possibly could’ve not known this information herself — then again though, how would Wilkin’s know it if not from the Nun? — but don’t you think it’s a tad convenient too that the Nun happened to make Lorraine write her name in the Bible that she then also happened to carry all the way to England (a decimated Bible too…) just to later on find out about its crucial piece of information? Also, we’re only into the second entry of this franchise (not counting the spin-offs) and I already loathe how almost every scare is starting to present death as an open option, but always ends up just being the demon simply dicking around long enough for someone to save them, ultimately draining the intensity out from me every time it happens; it kind of makes me appreciate the original more, where death never felt entirely viable until the later possession of the mother and the disclosure of the information on the dead family’s past. Well, unless you were a dog. 

I’ll end off on a peachier note, however, by speaking on behalf of another theme that I thought separated itself from its predecessor in an admirable manner. The Conjuring 2 seems quite interested in how people deduced unusual real-life stories during this era through the coexisting balance of religious belief and scientific rationality, and how even the supposedly more intellectual people who were opposed to superstition were just as desperate to believe themselves as were the ones who were convinced of being haunted or possessed whether it was all in their heads or in their houses. The film even suggests that a place of faith (the church) needs evidence, as well, in order to believe in modern incidents; it’s just the evolved human behavior of today. The film kind of uses stereotypical characters to stir these clashes into play, sure, but I’m at least glad it’s there? But, in truth, it does put us into that mindset of a time frame during Amityville and countless debunked hoaxes that made headlines where even the paranormal hunters/believers themselves had to contemplate whether a possible faker was worth their time — there’s more ghostbusting out there to be ghostbusted! — or if maybe their effort was still warranted regardless just in case there really was something supernatural in the presence of even little signs; myth, until proven completely guilty, cannot and should not be denied to the fullest.

In all honesty, Wan’s follow-up feels more like a straight-shooting drama than a straight-shooting horror flick, which encourages some great debate as to if The Conjuring 1 or 2 is the superior entry. Personally, I think this sequel genuinely had the potential to outdo what came before it, but the overstuffed writing ideas, with some meaty and others corny, essentially led to my choosing of side. This sequel could’ve been a From Russia With Love (1964) or an Empire Strikes Back (1980) ordeal given some of the material it’s working with, seriously.

The Crooked Man design was sublime though. So unnatural! 👌

Verdict: C+

“The Conjuring 2” is now available to stream on HBO Max and Netflix.

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