C2Director: James Wan

Screenwriters: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, and David Leslie Johnson

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, and Frances O’Connor

Sequels are often accompanied with a “been there, done that” sort of feeling.  While, that does not seem to prevent them from being successful, it does prevent many of them from being great.  The Conjuring 2 is “been there, done that’s” latest victim.

Set in late 1970s North London, The Conjuring 2 reunites us with paranormal investigators Ed and Loraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farminga).  Still reeling from their involvement investigating New York’s gruesome Amityville murders in 1974, the Warrens are considering a hiatus from the demon-hunting game.  However, when the Church approaches them with a story about a family in England possibly plagued by an evil spirit, the Warrens reluctantly agree to check it out.

This film, like its predecessor is also based on the case files of the Warrens and follows a rather highly publicized case known as the Enfield Poltergeist. Any freshness carried over from the 2013 original about a couple and their five daughters tormented by an evil presence is abandoned in this follow up about a mother and her four children tormented by an evil presence.  It’s not that this is just another film about a haunting; it’s been proven that there can be countless good and bad films that pursue that theme.  It’s that The Conjuring 2 doesn’t really advance the narrative of these characters or reveal any depth to the uncertainty of its source material.  In the same way that a television series might be developed for a network, but then the studio makes a deal to tie it to an already proven property in order to reap an existing audience, The Conjuring 2 feels like a Mad Libs horror movie script and the studio slapped The Conjuring 2 on top of it.  Here’s how I imagine the film’s four screenwriters credited on this film developed the script:

Carey Hayes: “A demonic force is contacted through a (noun).”

Chad Hayes: “Ouija board.”

James Wan: “The children then are frightened when their bed (verb and adverb).”

David Leslie Johnson: “Shakes uncontrollably.”

All of this is highly disappointing given how much I enjoyed The Conjuring in 2013. A redemptive piece of good news is that regardless of how dull the script is, director James Wan will not disappoint when it comes to delivering scares.  While the scares this time around are arguably cheaper than those in the previous film, there are a few good ones and some nightmare worthy moments as well.  I do believe that James Wan is the most interesting director of horror working right now.  His style is unique, and his skill with the genre is technically rather brilliant.

Overall though, The Conjuring 2 is a sophomore slump for the franchise, and I say “franchise” because I don’t think we’re quite done with the Warrens; the good will earned in the first film is not entirely used up yet.  Still, the second entry represents the fine line that stands between a fresh, vibrant, and chilling horror film and a cheap, by-the-numbers, retread of what we’ve seen before. C+

The Conjuring 2 is rated R and has a running time of 2 hours 13 minutes.