The Conjuring was a shocking horror film. It combined every creepy trope you can think of (ghosts, dolls, music boxes, mirrors, you name it), and it actually worked thanks to a genre-savvy director behind the curtains. James Wan has proved himself a capable producer on projects such as Saw and Insidious, and with The Conjuring, he cemented himself as a master of the genre. It had the perfect amalgam of horror tropes crafted in such a way that felt as fresh and spine-tingling as classic haunted house movies did in the '80s. The Conjuring 2 is another "based on true events" tale that has us follow expert paranormal investigators, the Warrens, this time solving the mystery of the Enfield Haunting.
Similar to the Amityville Haunting, the Enfield Haunting sees an English family plagued with a poltergeist that doesn't seem to enjoy the presence of anyone in the house. What The Conjuring 2 succeeds at is giving us both character development and another great story, which is exactly what a good sequel should do. The acting is uniformly great, but the true star of the film is James Wan. His shots are designed in a way to imbue dread and stir it around our heads for a while before hitting us with the scare. That's what true horror lacks these days, patience. The longer the anticipation is built and the more atmosphere is created, the more unsettling the situation becomes until it's like a ticking time bomb that you anxiously wait to go off. It uses familiar tropes, such as self-starting children's toys, slamming doors, and smashing furniture, but they're used as tools to mask the truly frightening fact that this family is up against something utterly beyond their control - they're hopeless, and we can feel it.
Mind you, The Conjuring 2 isn't without its faults. The runtime is a blatant offender. Pushing the 2-hour mark is never a good idea for a horror film, and some fat definitely could have been trimmed. There are a handful of cheap scares, audio scares to be precise - when the music gets extremely loud all of a sudden and you find yourself more annoyed than scared, quickly reaching for the remote to turn the volume down at the risk of enduring another ear drum shattering noise. It also doesn't feel as unique as its predecessor, understandably due to the very nature of sequels, but there are moments that drag on long enough to remind you that the first Conjuring didn't have these plodding plot points. For example, it takes about an hour for the Warrens to even get to England. Also, while in the haunted house, they're able to sleep through some horrifying sounds that would snap a bear right out of hibernation. But these dull spots and plot inconsistencies are few and far between.
The Conjuring 2 is how a horror sequel should be done. It's slick, stylish, fun, and at times, quite terrifying. When a horror movie makes me want to turn on the lights as I go roaming around the house at night, I consider that a job well done. The Conjuring 2, well done.