Talented Aussie director, James Wan (Saw, Insidious), gave horror fans a treat with 2013’s The Conjuring. Despite a somewhat familiar screenplay, Wan teased out a tense and engaging horror narrative that delivered bulk scares and creepy imagery. The good news about The Conjuring 2 is that Wan once again provides about 90 minutes’ worth of slick, memorable horror. The bad news, however, is that The Conjuring 2’s running time is 134 minutes.
The Conjuring 2, once again, opens with terminally square but good-hearted paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), as they experience the horrors of The Amityville House in an effective opening sequence that admittedly feels like a rehash of a scene from Insidious. The action then switches to Enfield, a borough in North London, where the Hodgson family are being beset by what appears to be an evil force, and single mother-of-four, Peggy (Frances O’Connor), is at her breaking point. Daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) is experiencing vivid visions and unusually mobile furniture, and could be suffering from demonic possession. Naturally few believe the Hodgsons, so it’s up to the Warrens to once again save the day. Eventually.
One of the problems with The Conjuring 2 is that it essentially repeats the same beats of the first film, but takes so much longer to do so. In taking on the “true story” of the so-called Enfield Poltergeist, we spend an unnecessary amount of time faffing around with the Hodgsons who, to be frank, are kind of dull. Madison Wolfe is effective as Janet, but Frances O’Connor’s take on the mum, Peggy, sounds like she’s about half a minute away from offering to “sweep your chimney for a ha’penny” or burst into a lesser known song from My Fair Lady. The rest of the family are pretty forgettable, and sections spent with them tend to drag.
The Warrens fare a little better, however, but again we know that they’re going to end up in Enfield, so every scene of them fighting against this inevitability feels like filler. That’s not to say that there aren’t creepy moments along the way – there are plenty. Wan fills the screen with evil nuns, creepy children’s toys, effective nightmare sequences, loud noises, and a “Crooked Man” monster that is oddly endearing albeit a little goofy.
The problem is that at 134 minutes, the film is outrageously overlong, and the third act climax, when it finally arrives, feels like more of a relief than the logical conclusion to the story. The Conjuring 2 has stellar moments of horror, and effectively homages numerous genre classics like The Exorcist and Evil Dead 2, but it’s simply too long to sustain the earnest and often silly ghost story at its core.