James Wan’s haunted house oeuvre is a well-oiled machine. Creaky floorboards and fearsome presences roll off the production line like clockwork; creepy, broken, grandfather clockwork. And, although The Conjuring 2 is bound by formula, when the scares are this good, I’m happy to buckle my seatbelt and enjoy the ride.
Wan’s recent good form (Insidious et al) is due to his understanding that (1) an empty rocking chair is often scarier than a toothy monster and (2) movies aren’t scary unless we care about the victims. Conjuring 2 (mostly) succeeds on both counts, but perhaps its greatest virtue is outstanding cinematography and editing. The camera confidently darts around corners and through cracked window panes. Wan carefully chooses what to show (and what not) and the result is a memorable fright flick. Boosting credentials is a terrific performance by young Madison Wolfe as the object of the resident demon’s obsession. In addition, the returning Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson exude charming ghostbusting chemistry.
Unfortunately the film’s plot is predictable and can’t compete with the sheer inventiveness of recent classics like The Babadook and It Follows. The ending is also a bit hokey. But if you’re looking for a spooky old time then this sequel packs a punch.