|'The most reliable mainstream horror franchise currently out there, which says as much about the present standing of the genre as it does about Wan's films'.|
With The Conjuring 2, writer-producer-director James Wan has established The Conjuring series as the most reliable mainstream horror franchise currently out there, which says as much about the present standing of the genre as it does about Wan's films. Both this second installment and the original film offer straightforward, traditional Hollywood horror done well. They're far from perfect and never do anything as interesting as more innovative genre offerings such as Green Room or The Witch, but Wan knows what he's doing with an able cast, and at the moment that's enough to place The Conjuring at the top of the horror series rankings.
What this means for The Conjuring 2 is that it generally gets the same things right as the first film, but rarely does anything to resolve the problems. The initial set-up of the sequel is remarkably familiar: we may have moved ahead six years and shifted from America to England, but the focus is still upon a large family traumatised by spooky goings on that Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are eventually called upon to help. As such, none of the Hodgson children outside of Janet (Madison Wolfe) receive a great deal in the way of development, much like the children of the Perron family in the previous film.
On the paranormal investigation side, Wan does develop Ed and Lorraine further here, but again relies too heavily on Wilson and Farmiga's sterling performances to carry the characters and their narrative. British investigator Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) is given a single scene to relate a backstory that's never referred to again, which is one more than parapsychologist Anita Gregory (Franka Potente) who remains thinly drawn and vaguely antagonistic throughout.
Whilst some familiar issues do return, so does Wan's knack for compellingly-told "based on a true story" horror. The Enfield Poltergeist case is used as an effective base for some genuinely creepy moments throughout, upon which Wan builds a satisfying additional story arc woven around the Warrens themselves. Despite the lengthy running time of well over two hours, The Conjuring 2 never drags. However, Wan does indulge himself a bit too much during the middle act - a scene where Ed leads an Elvis sing-along with the Hodgson children is painfully reminiscent of The Sound Of Music and has no place here - causing the finale to feel somewhat more hurried than you'd like it to be.
In the end, the good within The Conjuring 2 outweighs the bad, leaving the franchise in a strong position to potentially continue - after all, the casebook of the real Warrens has plenty of material left for Wan to plunder should he choose to do so. A hypothetical third installment, however, would need to do more than trot out the same formula yet again, in order elevate the series from the solid yet safe entertainment The Conjuring franchise has provided so far.