Is the haunted house genre played out? It is until a goodie comes along that fries your nerves to a frazzle. The Conjuring did it in 2013; now The Conjuring 2 does it again. The sequel overstays its welcome at a punishing 133 minutes, but that’s the only fly in the creepy ointment.
The plot? It’s the same old blather about things that go bump in the night. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as real-life paranormal investigators Ed Warren and his clairvoyant wife, Lorraine. This time they’re working the British equivalent of the Amityville horror case that made global headlines in 1970. Seven years later, single mom Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four kids, especially 11-year-old Janet (a terrific Madison Wolfe), find their ramshackle North London home bedeviled by demons. (The one that looks like a cadaverous nun with hollowed-out eyes is a doozy.)
What makes The Conjuring 2 play deeper and darker than a warmed-over version of The Exorcist is director James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Furious 7). This Malaysian-born filmmaker can make his camera do terrifying tricks that are almost supernatural. The most innocent objects, including a toy fire truck, take on a haunting malevolence. The Warrens have God on their side, and Wilson and Farmiga play them with an evangelical zeal that gave the first Conjuring a leg up with Christian audiences. The Conjuring 2 has the power of Wan to compel you to scream your bloody head off. His artistry with pace, framing, and tension-filled atmosphere makes the house come alive in every undead detail. Why resist?