The Conjuring 2 Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor. Directed by James Wan. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.
Director James Wan is very good at creating scary moments. In movies like Insidious and The Conjuring, he expertly builds suspense, keeping the audience on edge before delivering jolts of fear and dread. The problem with those movies is the follow-through, everything that fits between the scary moments and makes the difference between a brief thrill and a satisfying story. Wan’s The Conjuring 2 suffers from the same problem, with a handful of effectively scary moments spread out over 134 minutes of a fairly dull haunted-house story. Once again based loosely on one of the actual cases investigated by real-life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), The Conjuring 2 focuses on a working-class family in a London suburb in 1977, who find themselves terrorized by what appears to be the ghost of an old man.
Single mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) and her four children endure the familiar trappings of a haunted-house movie (sudden loud noises, objects moving by themselves, disembodied voices) for a good hour of the movie before the Warrens are finally called in to investigate, while the Warrens deal with their own mostly uninteresting personal dramas (including being called fakers on national TV). Instead of making use of the lengthy running time to delve deeply into his characters, Wan mostly repeats similar scares over and over again, although just when it seems like he’s run out of ideas, he’ll come up with a clever visual or aural approach for depicting the same kind of terror. Nothing in the sequel is as terrifying as the “hide and clap” game in the first movie, although Wan comes close with a nightmarish Babadook-like children’s character called the Crooked Man. But even the Crooked Man can only provide momentary excitement before the movie gets back to its plodding, drawn-out story.