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Review: “The Conjuring 2” (R)

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Vera Farmiga in “The Conjuring 2”; Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures(NEW YORK) — In case you didn’t know, horror is Hollywood’s most profitable genre. The movies cost very little to make and fans love to go to the theater and collectively have the you-know-what scared out of them.

The problem, in general, is the majority of these movies are unoriginal, predictable, and, at least for me, boring. The exception to the rule is anything directed by James Wan.  He’s a master of atmospherics, manipulating sight and sound to the point where you not only see, but feel what’s unfolding on the screen.

It doesn’t hurt that both Conjuring movies are based on the experiences of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, once again played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.  The story here centers on what the filmmakers claim is the most documented paranormal event in history, which occurred in 1977 at the Hodgson home in Enfield, London.

At this point, the Warrens have taken a break from paranormal investigation at the urging of Lorraine, who’s had disturbing visions that started when the couple was investigating the infamous Amityville home in Long Island, NY, and consistently involved the death of her husband.

But over in Enfield, young Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), one of four Hodgson children, is sporadically being possessed by the spirit of an old man who used to live in the house. The intensity of the possession is magnified by the Hodgson’s living situation — Janet is one of four children being raised by her struggling single mother, Peggy (Frances O’Connor). The house starts to get attention from the press when the police are called to the home and they witness a supernatural event.

That’s when the church gets involved and asks the Warrens to fly to London to investigate the Hodgsons’ story.

From Saw, to Insidious,  and now the Conjuring films, Wan’s a director who belongs in the conversation with Hitchcock, Craven, Romero, Argento and Raimi. Wan not only has a knack for horror choreography,  he also picks great partners — most notably Patrick Wilson, who was in both Insidious movies, too, and offers a depth, humanity and an unparalleled level of commitment to his work here that adds morality and gravitas to Wan’s narrative. Wan’s other achievement is the love story between the Warrens, which serves to invest us even more in their plight.

The Conjuring 2 is a taut, psychologically thrilling, exceptional horror tale.

Four out of five stars.

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