Conjuring 2: Passable if Not Entirely Successful Sequel to the Great Original 2013 Hit

The_Conjuring_2_The_Enfield_Poltergeist_posterThe Conjuring 2, the new horror film, is expected to debut this weekend with a gross of $35 million.

Artistically speaking, this follow-up lacks the scary frights and visual delights of its 2013 predecessor, but, as far as sequels go, it offers passable, if not great entertainment, based on its consistently unnerving tone and disturbing images, which are maintained throughout the film.

The Conjuring 2 reunites director James Wan with two of the most appealing (and underestimated) thespians working in Hollywood toady, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who return as the husband and wife team of paranormal investigators–the Nick and Nora Charles of the Depression era series The Thin Man for our turbulent era.

This time the duo travel to a haunted house just north of London, where real estate prices are low.  While the time and place zones have changed, the 1970s backdrop (see below) and the steady presence of Farmiga and Wilson remain.

Again focusing on the mutually rewarding relationship between ghost chasers Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Farmiga), The Conjuring 2 is not devoid of ideas, and its probation of love and marriage is quite intriguing, if you care to look beneath the surface of a genre horror flick.

Unpretentious and well-grounded, James Wang is a proficiently commercial director, who knows how to build up a creepy atmosphere of dread and then maintain it almost–but not quite—up to the end.  The limitations, as always in Wang’s features, are more in the writing department than in the helming.

A pre-credits sequence depicts the Warren as they investigate the haunted Lutz home in Amityville, New York, which made the couple famous  for their skills in the first place.

The_Conjuring_2_The_Enfield_Poltergeist_3_farmiga_wilsonDuring a séance, Lorraine connects with the man who murdered his family there before encountering a horrifying nun. Returning to her own body, Lorraine deludes herself into believing that she had experienced the worst hellish experience—ever.

But we know—and there would not be a movie—if Lorraine had indeed “come as close to hell as possible,” to use her own words.  Soon, she envisions Ed’s death, which urges her to give up demon-busting

The_Conjuring_2_The_Enfield_Poltergeist_2_farmiga_wilsonAbout a year later, a young woman named Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) starts teleporting through her home in Enfield, a London working-class borough.  Creepy toys begin to appear, and strange noises seem to be coming out of the walls.  Deeply concerned, single mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) freaks out. For reasons that are not entirely convincing, the Hodgsons decide to talk to the press before going to the Warrens, though this plot device is sort of an excuse to brings to the fore all kinds of colorful paranormal experts.

I have always held that, given the right vehicle, Stewart is less than the old-fashioned, square-jawed hero that he appears to be, and here he has an opportunity (limited though) to demonstrate his intelligence, skill, and even wit. It’s time that Hollywood agents cast him in better, richer roles.

I have been raving about Vera Farmiga for a decade now, ever since she played the tough role in Down to the Bone, a breakthrough part for which she was honored with the Best Actress, from our group, the L.A. Film Critics Association.

In this picture, director James Wan, who is responsible, among other film projects, for the huge international success of Furious 7, takes a more measured and subtle approach here — there are a lot fewer jump scares and visual and sound shocks than there were in the first Conjuring,

The_Conjuring_2_The_Enfield_Poltergeist_1_farmigaClearly, Wan knows inside out the format of the haunted-house film, which allows him to concentrate on those thematic, visual, and aural elements that have proven effective over the years, while avoiding other pitfalls of that long-established genre.

However, audiences expecting a complete repeat of the impact of the original movie, which was excellent, will be disappointed with the sequel’s relative restraint and measured tone, though, as noted Conjuring 2 showcases its own rewards and thus is not entirely dismissible.

Commercial Prospects:

Opening in 3,343 locations, The Conjuring 2 should triumph over the other newcomers, Warcraft and Now You See Me 2.  While that’s below the first film’s $41 million opening, it still represents a solid result for Warner, the studio behind the $40 million New Line production.

The_Conjuring_2_The_Enfield_Poltergeist_4Lionsgate’s thriller, Now You See Me 2, about a team of illusionists, is also a sequel that cashes in on its estimable original cast, including gang members Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Mark Ruffalo, adding one new face, Daniel Radcliffe, to the mix

The film cost more than $90 million to make and should open in 3,200 screens at roughly $23 million (a drop from the $29 million debut of the first movie in 2013).

Warcraft, Legendary and Universal’s big budget ($160 million) video game adaptation suffers its label as a “troubled production.” Some critics have suggested that one problem is visual. the warrior creatures look like “Fraggle Rock” outcasts.  Despite the mixed critical reception, foreign audiences have embraced the fantasy adventure. After three weeks of international release, Warcraft has grossed about $75 million, with particularly strong performances in Russia, France, and Germany.

In China, it’s already generated $20 million in advance ticket sales prior to its Wednesday premiere. Warcraft could gross in its first five days in China more than $100 million.

That should compensate for the film’s mediocre domestic launch. Warcraft is expected to gross $25 million stateside debut when it opens across 3,396 North American theaters.