Horror is not my favorite genre, but when I like a horror movie, I love the fuck out of it. I appreciate being taken out of my mind and into my body, and fear is one way to do that. Of course a great cast doesn’t hurt, and when The Conjuring came out three years ago, I watched it primarily for Vera Farmiga. Knowing she and Patrick Wilson would be in the sequel with the same director (James Wan) was enough to check it out, and I’m glad I did.
If you liked the first movie, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like the second. It follows a similar structure–an opening scene with Ed and Lorraine Warren on a case (the famous Amityville house), then scenes with the new family experiencing paranormal terror in their London home, followed by the Warrens’ intervention–yet this doesn’t make the story boring or without surprises. The Warrens’ opening case ties in with the new one and establishes again the dangers of their work and one spouse’s hesitance in continuing to do it. In the first film, it was Ed who was worried for his wife’s safety; in this one, Lorraine wants a break. The reason for her specific fear even ties into events mentioned in the first film, though you needn’t have seen it.
This leads me to one of the additional pleasures of this and the first movie (besides the scares and cast) that adds another layer to the story: the relationship between the Warrens. It reminds me most strongly and favorably of the original Poltergeist, which also highlights a believable and close bond between husband and wife; they’re partners. The Conjuring 2 reveals what drew Ed and Lorraine together, and it was their willingness to believe in each other’s supernatural encounters and abilities. This sort of trust connects to the experiences of the young girl at the center of the strange events the Warrens are currently investigating (it also contrasts with the broken marriage mentioned and felt by the London family). The case this time around is more reminiscent of the exorcism subgenre of horror, and the girl, Janet, is the one possessed or affected most. When the Warrens finally arrive in England, Lorraine talks with Janet, who expresses the alienation and isolation of experiencing what she has been: everyone’s afraid of her and treating her differently. This is when Lorraine empathizes and tells her about the one person who believed her, Ed. By the film’s end, the three of them have a bond.
Even in the best horror movies, I rarely jump in my seat; it’s typically too easy to anticipate when something’s about to appear from the dark. However, there was one moment in The Conjuring 2 that truly startled me and gave me that sort of scare. If you’re like me, then you may also be surprised; if instead you are easily startled, prepare for plenty such moments. They’re not a requirement for me to enjoy a horror film, which may be why so many disappoint since it’s often the easiest kind of scare and therefore a go-to tactic. I prefer or respond more to dread and disquiet, and there’s enough of that here as well, even if, like me, you’re not religious and don’t even believe in the supernatural or paranormal (hm, what’s the difference?). It will always be upsetting to see children terrorized, helpless parents, and a situation the characters cannot escape. It’s especially upsetting to me to see a girl taken control of and used, a common trope of horror movies.
Final thoughts: Christianity as a fact and force feels inevitable in horror movies featuring demons, spirits, possession, and the like. Are there horror movies or TV shows that make use of other religions and forms of spirituality as a defense? I can think only of True Blood and The Craft, which involve Wicca.