A Scarier Sequel: Drama and Anxiety in The Conjuring 2

Conjuring yet again
Photo Credit – The Conjuring 2

As I watched The Conjuring 2 this afternoon, I found myself spastically reaching toward Michael’s arm and clasping his hand during the film’s intensity peaks.  And when we were in the middle of a jump-scare, my startle was often augmented by Michael, who would grab my hand and come close to squeezing it off.  In other words, The Conjuring 2 is scary, so unless you’re really emotionally stoic and relatively immune to anything horror, The Conjuring 2 promises you a few unsettling moments – at leastMichael, who has been seeing horror movies with me since we started dating over a year and a half ago, said that this was the most afraid he’s been since he got used to seeing films from the genre.  I was scared too, but also intrigued.  In fact, I was not just intrigued, but impressed, as we watched the film.  The Conjuring 2 does not rely on fear alone, though the movie is scary.  It manages to be an incredibly satisfying, even emotionally moving story, at the same time.  In other words, the plot isn’t a mere vehicle for terrifying moments.  The Conjuring 2 is a well-developed film with a unique story line that “happens to have” a lot of scary parts.  And – bonus! – it’s based off a true story.

The Conjuring 2 is based off the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren and takes place in 1977.  Ed was a Vatican-recognized demonologist (who died in 2006) and Lorraine is a psychic, who still lives, and presides over her museum of possessed objects (that she and Ed retrieved from their cases) with the help of her son.  Ed and Lorraine’s names are most notably attached to the famous Amityville Horror Case – which was, by some, proclaimed a hoax – and the legitimacy of their practice has been controversial since its inception.  I find myself wanting to believe in the basic gist of the movie, but my skeptical side always intervenes.  I can’t say it’s not true, but I hesitant to completely acquiesce to the possibility that it happened.

The film picks up where Ed and Lorrain’s relationship (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) left off in the first film, and continues to depict an incredibly touching bond between this husband and wife.  They are resolute, (almost) fearless, and endlessly self-sacrificing in their efforts to protect victims of demonic attacks and hauntings, despite Lorraine’s premonition that something terrible will happen if they continue their pursuits.  They are endearing characters, and the film provides many warm-fuzzy moments centered around their sincere concern for other human beings.  In one scene, Ed plays “Fools Rush In” on the guitar (while he comically sings in his Elvis voice) to the Nottingham’s – the single-parent family suffering from the haunting – while Lorraine watches him lovingly from the doorway.  I kid you not – I started getting chills and I felt tears approaching.  In other words, a movie that managed to so consistently petrify me also provided an incredibly – surprisingly! – heartwarming scene.  What occurred to me as I watched the film is that the film’s director, James Wan, and perhaps the screenwriters, think really highly of this sometimes controversial couple.  They are portrayed in a valiant, admirable light throughout the movie.  I want Ed and Lorraine Warren to be my friends after watching them face the terrors of the ghostly and demonic worlds with gusto.  They’re just plain cool. 

The Nottingham’s – the London family who experienced the hauntings – are also well developed.  After her divorce, Peggy Nottingham (Frances O’Conner) lives with her four children – two sons and two daughters – in a dilapidated apartment.  Money is obviously really tight, and we learn later that Peggy’s former husband had an affair, and ended up having twins with “the woman around the corner.”  Peggy is a struggling but ultimately grounded, incredibly loving mother, and her children are sweet, likable, perhaps nicer-than-normal kids who seem determined to endure their family’s recent hardship with strength.  As I’ve noted in previous Just Dread-Full posts, I’m not a huge fan of horror movies in which I’m rooting for the evil entity because the main characters are such shitty human beings.  Near-dramas – like The Conjuring 2 – that tell in-depth stories about inherently good people are more appealing to me.  In other words, score another point for The Conjuring 2. 

But, if you’re thinking this all sounds a little sappy – well, maybe it is, in part.  There are some really sweet scenes that could be deemed over-emotional, at least to people who are a little cynical.  But apart from warm emotions, there are some truly frightening moments in this film.  I particularly like the creativity with which the spirits and demonic forces were conceived.  They’re not displayed obnoxiously – overexposed so that they cease to be scary, which some horror films have the tendency to do.  But they are ugly SOB’s, and their timing is almost always perfect; they appear unexpectedly (or when you’re waiting in terror for something to happen) and scare the hell out of you.  At least, they did for me – and Michael.  As a sidenote, I am fascinated by the thought of designing evil beings for a job.  Who creates the perfect demon or ideal ghost for a horror movie, and how do those people so often create a figure that taps into our deepest fears?  Admittedly, some films do this better than others, but I thought the entities in The Conjuring 2 were exceptionally scary, and they’re revealed in the right amounts at the right time, which is essential to produce the most chilling effect.

Of course, our experience watching the film this afternoon was enhanced by the Tinseltown Movie Theater’s new D-Box seats.  For a (considerably) larger sum of money than a normal ticket, you can pay to sit in seats that vibrate, bump, and jolt you around to the crescendo of the film’s frights.  We first tried the D-Box approach when we watched the most recent installment of the Ninja Turtles, and I thought they were pretty cool, but I may have accidentally fallen asleep during a small part of the film, despite the bumps and jolts.  As it turns out, D-Box seats were made for horror films.  Whoever programmed those seats did it impeccably; their perfectly timed shaking supplements the visual and audio terror at just the right moment, resulting in an even more terrifying experience.  Really.  Every jump-scare (and there are plenty) is perfectly enhanced by the violently shaking seats, which also tip slightly one way and the next during less suspenseful parts of the film to sort of manipulate the viewer.  Which is to say, if you love the genre – especially if you loved the original The Conjuring – and the D-Box seat is available to you, it might be worth springing for, because they really intensify the experience of this already intense film.

According to the film, this almost two-and-a-half-hour movie re-visits the most highly documented case in Ed and Lorraine’s case history.  There is more evidence for the terror that the Nottingham’s experienced than that of any other family.  And to be honest, I will probably be endlessly fascinated with the prospect that all – or at least most – of these events may have actually occured.  Indeed, I feel compelled to do more research about the Warrens, and I’m sure I will see the film again, as it’s about to rank among my favorite horror movies of all time (an esteemed position that the first Conjuring may not even be in).  For an excellent story and a horrifying movie-going experience, see The Conjuring 2.  And if you’re down for spending the big bucks, see it in D-Box seats.  For real.  You won’t regret your decision.

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A Scarier Sequel: Drama and Anxiety in The Conjuring 2

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