Hot Take: The Enfield Poltergeist gets a Hollywood ending. Yay! (That’s sarcasm.)
There’s something manipulative about using the words “based on a true story” especially in horror movies. It immediately increases the stakes and adds a bit of fear. The worst thing you could possibly do before seeing The Conjuring 2 is read History vs. Hollywood’s comparison of the real-life story to the shiny penny Hollywood came up with.
To be fair, the most important job a movie has to execute is to entertain the audience. In this case, The Conjuring 2 falls short, too. From the time The Conjuring 2 begins, doubt of it’s authenticity sets in. The feeling never goes away. If anything, doubt is an overriding presence that prevents you from getting fully engrossed in the film, attached to the characters and bought in to the apparent nightmare the Hodgson family is experiencing. Outside of a handful of jump scares masterfully crafted by director James Wan and the inherent creepiness of demonic children (a horror muscle flexed too frequently), The Conjuring 2 is hard to take at face value and you spend a lot of time thinking about the possibility the whole thing is a hoax to actually be frightened by the events as they unfold.
While similar was done with The Conjuring, it feels like The Conjuring 2 doubles down on the embellishments and puts the Warrens (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) on an even bigger pedestal. If you are a fan of the spirit fighting couple from the first film, you’ll probably find the sequel to be amiable. Otherwise, The Conjuring 2 is a tougher sell. That being said, in 2016, only The Witch has a more compelling and scarier premise. It’s been a rough year for horror films and, for lack of better choices, The Conjuring 2 at least has a moderate amount of scares and a somewhat coherent storyline that holds up despite it’s obvious embellishments on the facts around the true story of the Enfield Poltergeist.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Visually Creepy
Director James Wan is very good at putting together a frightful experience visually. There are plenty of images in The Conjuring 2 that stick with you long after the credits roll.
- Madison Wolfe
Wolfe plays Janet Hodgson, the paranormally tormented young girl who is terrorized by spirits and demonically possessed by the spiritual presence. Wolfe is convincing in her role and adds to the uneasy mood.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Sometimes Not Letting the Facts Get In the Way Doesn’t Automatically Make It A Good Story
If The Conjuring 2 were a work of pure fiction, it might work better. Heck, even films like The Blair Witch Project have gotten away with ignoring the fact that it was fiction to amp up the stakes. However, The Conjuring 2 sells itself heavily on it’s story being real. The film embraces the reality of the Enfield incident and hurts it’s own credibility in the process.
- Those Pesky Gaping Plot Holes
To accompany the bending of the truth that goes on in the movie, some massive plot holes develop. The biggest being why a demon hellbent on terrorizing a family in England would also provoke the world’s most well known paranormal investigators despite the two being seemingly unconnected at the time. Is there only one demon spirit in the world?