The Conjuring 2 (2016)

*. “The next true story from the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren.” Or at least based on true events. Whatever that means. I guess if they come from someone’s “case file” that means they have to be true, right? And the DVD even comes with a separate documentary on the Enfield poltergeist scare. Must be legit.
*. All you really have to know is that given this was yet another box office smash, these same “case files” will be raided for material again, with more sequels and spin-offs on the way. Is that a good thing?
*. I have reservations, despite enjoying this kind of movie as much as the next person. I know this is genre filmmaking, and there’s only so much you can do with these haunted house stories, but it’s clear that they’re out of ideas here. There are a lot of squeaky doors that open and slam shut on their own, there are swinging lightbulbs, there are dogs that are sensitive to what’s going on, there are levitations, there are terrified children pulling their blankets over their heads. Even the jump scares seemed predictable to me.
*. If you’d seen The Conjuring you’d feel on very familiar ground, right down to the possessed toys that summon the demons and the girls’ sleeping arrangements. Even the film’s basic structure is identical, with a prologue featuring the Warrens in action (here they’re at the Amityville house), followed by our introduction to the threatened family (with a show-off shot zooming into their house), then the arrival of the Warrens at the haunted home at the mid-way point to cast the demons out.
*. None of this stopped audiences from flocking to it. It’s pure formula, but decently turned out. But what I have a hunch really helps this particular franchise out is that it goes against the contemporary trend in horror films of this sort to portray religion as totally ineffective. Here waving a cross and reciting some Latin actually seems to do something. We also don’t see the good guys all lying around dead at the end. Instead, family values and the power of love are affirmed. Audiences like that. Even horror audiences.
*. I’ve mentioned before how I like to look at what people have on their bookshelves in their movie homes. Here we can see what looks like a complete set of Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Civilization in the Warren home. Good for them. I have them sitting on the shelf next to me now.
*. Poor old Bill Wilkins, ‘e ‘ad a brain ’emorrhage ‘e did, while watchin’ the telly. Now ‘e’s just a lonely bloke who wants to stay in ‘is ‘ouse. What’s so scary about that? I feel sorry for him. At least until he starts stealing the television remote. That’s just mean.
*. I joke, but I’m always curious as to what these damn ghosts or demons want anyway. In this movie Bill is being used by darker forces, but why those forces are targeting Enfield is beyond me.
*. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as Ed and Lorraine Warren, as funny and likeable an odd couple as they were in the first film. Again one imagines them trying hard to keep a straight face. I actually laughed out loud a couple of times.
*. There’s nothing either new or interesting about this entry in the case files, and it comes in a bit heavy at two hours and fifteen minutes, but if you like things going bump in the night and scary faces popping out of the darkness to say boo! then you’ll at least be getting what you paid for.

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