The Conjuring 2: A love letter to James Wan
The Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are back and better than ever. James Wan's latest Conjuring installment is a fantastically scary story centered around the famous Poltergeist case in Enfield, London. Set in the late 70's at Christmas time, it oozes with a sense of a particular time and place. The movie is technically impeccable.
There can be no question that James Wan is at the top of his directing game. His ability to create tension in even the tamest of settings is a sight to behold. The most important tool that Wan has, however, is his sincerity for his subject. I don't know if he believes that these events actually occurred, but he plays it straight, and that is the most important way to create scares.
Each scare in the movie is earned and crafted with perfection. Wan is able to take three separate entities and make each one scary in a real unique way. His use of animation is particularly striking in the movie. It makes the Babadook look silly in comparison.
The main complaint that I continue to see about James Wan's latest haunted house movie, is that the running time is far too long. This argument seems to exist in every review, even the overwhelmingly positive ones. This is not a complaint I share, nor is it one I even understand. To say that the running time is too long would be to say one of two things- either we must cut some of the scares, which would be absurd, or that we would have to cut out the character development between either the kids and the mom, or between Ed and Loraine themselves. To cut out this development would lessen our scares and make the movie a dumbed-down version of itself.
The secret weapon of the movie are the kids themselves. Young Janet (Madison Wolfe) is the star. The genuine fear and emotion she conveys is great. We care if Ed and Loraine are able to save her or not, which is huge. In most modern horror movies the kids are expendable, in this movie they are key. Each child has their own personality, strengths, and weaknesses that the demon can prey on. The mother, Peggy (Frances O'Connor), is the backbone of the family. A single mom who would give up smoking just to give her youngest son biscuits. One of the strengths of the film is its ability not to string us along with Peggy not believing that her daughter is being haunted. She exudes strength just from the fact that she believes, and would do anything to protect these kids.
James Wan is a true filmmaker. Many have been proclaimed as the next Steven Spielberg, but I think we have been overlooking one person. If I were to place a bet on the next great superstar director, I would put every dime I had on Wan. He has the natural instincts of someone who could have easily made movies in the 1980's. The Conjuring 2 isn't created by someone who is bored with his craft. It is created by someone who is in love with it, and wants to scare the hell out of us.