“The Conjuring 2” Review: James Wan Is in His Prime, The Script… Not So Much

Courtesy of New Line Cinema
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

It’s always a little disappointing when a sequel doesn’t have a subtitle in it’s title. The Conjuring 2 is an okay enough title, I guess, but I’d like to suggest something new: The Conjuring 2: The British Boogaloo. 

While The Conjuring 2 might seem similar to its predecessor in terms of plot and content, it makes sure to differentiate itself from the original by adding in some British accents. Still focusing on the tag-team ghost fighting duo Lorraine and Ed Warren, a new demon has popped up that many are calling “England’s Amnityville”. Based on a true story (as always), the Warrens must figure out how to stop the demon and save the family that lives inside the house.

It’s a little surprising that paranormal horror is still as popular as it is. The subgenre has been kicking around for nearly a decade now, and the horror industry still hasn’t shifted to a new cycle. That said, if we have to be treated to a paranormal horror film, at least it’s one like The Conjuring 2. And the reason for this is due almost entirely to director James Wan. Just coming of off Furious 7, he’s in the prime of his career, and is making possibly his best work yet.

One of the big reasons for this is that Wan is incredibly smart about how he moves the camera. A big complaint that many people have about horror movies is that they rely too heavily on jump scares, but Wan proves time and time again within The Conjuring 2 that he knows how to make a jump scare work. By moving the camera and manipulating what details the audience see, he is able to set up tension in an incredibly effective manner. He has complete control over how the scene is blocked, and allows more opportunity for the audience to become invested in the moment. This makes the jump scares seem less abrasive and more horrifying. James Wan is probably one of the best mainstream horror filmmakers working today, and considering that he directed the original Saw, I suppose the horror industry will just have to copy what he does next.

It’s only a shame that the scripts that James Wan chooses/co-writes are often lacking. While I will defend the structure of Furious 7 to death, it’s hard to argue against the fact that most of the movies he directs tend to lack meaning. The Conjuring 2 is no different. The main purpose The Conjuring 2 serves is to give more press to the Warrens and convince the audience that ghosts are real. That’s a little hard to swallow because as an audience member, you so desperately want The Conjuring 2 to succeed, but often drops everything to get all preachy, and ultimately kills the momentum the film gave itself.

The script issues don’t stop with the lack of purpose though. The structure is also inherently repetitive. The movie seeks to answer one question, but continues to attempt to solve this problem in the same way, over and over. This leads to a pace that slows to an absolute crawl. While the scares are mind-blowingly good, the movie is mind-blowingly dull. When combined with some wacky dialogue and nonexistent character development, there are no stakes to ground the film. The movie is a joy to marvel at, but there’s not much to keep the audience invested. James Wan is absolutely killing it, but somebody needs to get him a good script.

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