The year 2013 proved to be a remarkable one for horror films. We had the opportunity to witness outstanding movies on the big screen, such as “Evil Dead,” “Mama,” “Insidious 2,” and “V/H/S 2.” Among these gems was “The Conjuring.” While we already knew James Wan from films like “Saw,” “Dead Silence,” and “Insidious,” “The Conjuring” served as his breakthrough and marked his full entry into our lives. Three years after the first film, James Wan returned with a sequel. I was one of those skeptical about the arrival of this film because the first “Conjuring” film didn’t seem to beg for a sequel. Making a sequel to such an excellent film could have potentially tarnished the original. I must apologize; in many aspects, the second film surpasses the first. In terms of storytelling, the second film may not add much to the overall narrative, but it’s clear that James Wan has grown immensely during this three-year interval. The second film, The Conjuring 2, outshines the first in terms of direction and atmosphere.
Our story takes place in 1977 in Enfield, London. The subject matter James Wan chose for his film is based on a true story. This isn’t one of those concocted claims you often find in the opening credits of films – “inspired by a true story.” It’s a real-life controversy that dominated newspaper headlines and even made its way onto television during that period.
Peggy is a woman who has been abandoned by her husband, struggling to make ends meet with her two daughters and two sons. In already trying times, strange occurrences begin to unfold in her home. An inexplicable “entity” incessantly torments Janet. As this situation escalates beyond mere disturbances, the family decides to call the police. Initially, the police arrive, treating it as a case of a mischievous prankster. However, after witnessing a chair moving on its own, the situation evolves into a nationwide news story. As the popularity of the incident grows day by day, so do the attacks by the entity that plagues Janet.
The photograph you see above is of the real family. James Wan starts the film by drawing inspiration from “Amityville Horror” but takes a twist, shifting the focus to London. Interestingly, the narrative style reminiscent of “Amityville” makes it onto my list of the best film openings I’ve seen. Enfield is considered the Amityville of England, and with a little research, you can find writings and documentaries about the film’s subject matter. Moreover, it’s a nice touch that the events in the film are shown at the end, with audio recordings presented. The authorities, however, believed that Janet’s mental health was deteriorating and that she was producing the sounds herself. In fact, England never truly believed in the authenticity of the events. The only certainty is that we will never truly know the whole truth today.
James Wan couldn’t construct the same level of depth in the screenplay as he did in the first film. In the first film, we obtained detailed information about the story, events, and motivations, but in the second film, the motivations are somewhat left hanging. Instead, a new character is introduced to us: Valak. Although the screenplay may not be brilliant, it does prioritize the cinematography. While the first film will always be remembered as a cult classic, the second film’s cinematography is a league of its own. The director has evolved significantly during the three-year period, emphasizing atmosphere, camera work, and cinematography. There are scenes within tThe Conjuring 2 that will ensure the film remains James Wan’s magnum opus for years to come.
In football, there’s a saying: “He dribbles past everyone on the field, turns back, and dribbles again.” James Wan’s use of the camera is somewhat akin to this saying. He takes the camera inside the house, guides it through the entire residence, takes it out, and then brings it in once more, all without ever turning it off. The Dardenne brothers and Michael Mann also favor long shots, but James Wan’s use of the camera is technically impressive as it threads through the needle’s eye. There was an impressive scene in the beginning of the first film where he roamed with the camera without shutting it off. However, what he does in this film is something I haven’t seen in any cinema film before, and I’m doubtful if we ever will.
I’d like to dedicate a paragraph to the music and Vera Farmiga as well. I adore the partnership of James Wan and Joseph Bishara; they collaborate in nearly every film. As usual, the music is fantastic. Joseph has truly excelled once again with his composition. Vera Farmiga, much like in the first film, delivers a stellar performance as the character Lorraine Warren. Perhaps the secret to the success of “The Conjuring” lies in the Warren family. Ed and Lorraine Warren fill the void in horror films where character depth is often lacking. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga make an exceptional duo. Their charisma elevates the film to a new level. As someone who initially didn’t want a sequel after the first film, I’m now expecting a series from them.
In conclusion, while James Wan may not have excelled in terms of the screenplay, he truly shines in terms of cinematography, giving us one of the finest horror films of 2016 with The Conjuring 2. Universal offered James Wan a life-changing sum to direct “Fast & Furious 8.” However, Wan declined the money and stated that he was ready to make another horror film. Fortunately, he chose “The Conjuring.” One wishes that he would direct all horror films. When the director’s prowess in creating atmosphere combines with quality acting, the result is highly enjoyable cinema.
Cast & Crew
director: James Wan
writers: James Wan, Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Simon McBurney, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Sterling Jerins, Maria Doyle Kennedy
USA | 2016 | 134 MINUTES |