Today: The Conjuring 2 (Wan, 2016)
In which the very real case of the Enfield Poltergeist and, to a lesser extent, the events portrayed in the equally real 1977 novel The Amityville Horror: A True Story are linked via the involvement in both incidents of real-life former husband-and-wife paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) and drizzled liberally with a good dollop of dramatic license, focussing far less on the insubstantial nature of the claims in either case and instead presenting those claims as having been, for the most part, cast-iron genuine. It is a horror movie, after all.
Big budget, big studio horror pictures are often entertaining, well-made affairs - as one would expect, of course - but they’re hardly ever actually scary, holding the audience at arm’s length as they do by their own inevitably glossy sheen. So it came as a delightful surprise to me back in 2013 when The Conjuring came about as close as a big-picture horror can to bucking that trend and delivering a genuinely nerve-jangling tale.
Alas, although many reviews have reported more of that scary goodness present within The Conjuring 2, I simply couldn’t see it. It’s not a bad film - far from it - but for me it’s just another studio horror title amongst the rank-and-file alongside the Insidious franchise, the Sinister franchise, the Final Destination pics et cetera (in fairness, the first Sinister movie did have some incredibly creepy scenes; you know, the “Home Movie” sequences), and not a patch on its predecessor. The inauthentic-sounding cor-blimey-guv’nor accents employed by the actors portraying the beleaguered Hodgson family didn’t help, and in linking the Warren’s experiences in Amityville with the shenanigans in Enfield, The Conjuring 2 seems a little at sea in settling on an antagonist. Director James Wan still ably demonstrates his talents with fantastic sound design and that nodding, poking camera successfully ratcheting up the tension but it only ever leads to a(nother) jump scare; I wasn’t overly taken on the set design, either. That council house - a bustling family hub housing a mother and four kids - looked too obviously like a studio picture haunted house. I know the decor was recreated pretty faithfully based on archived media photos but it had that abandoned and derelict layer of Silent Hill-style filth all over everything. It all screamed “Aaargh! Scary monsters!” as loudly as any stormbound remote Gothic castle in a Hammer pic, yet what grabbed the attention of the public at the time of the actual reporting of the Enfield Poltergeist was the idea of something supernatural and scary taking hold in an environment so mundane and commonplace; if it can happen in that house, it can happen in mine.
Oh well. Everyone else says it’s a terrific film, so what do I know?