Those of you reading this review who saw the first installment of The Conjuring some three years ago will most likely remember that film opening with a segment-unrelated to the rest of the pic, involving a vengeful possessed doll. It was a very scary sequence indeed and was memorable enough to have inspired a lackluster film with that doll, named Annabelle, as the lead subject. After the devil doll sequence had come and gone then the film locked into its plot of demonic possession that, more or less worked, until the film fell into very derivative territory during the final twenty minutes or so.

The Annabelle stuff in the original The Conjuring was so effective that James Wan, director of both installments, has attempted to one-up the proceedings with his pre-credits sequence in The Conjuring 2. I won’t say too much except to mention that it’s a recreation of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s (the subjects of both films, actual paranormal investigators) most famous case, which became the film The Amityville Horror. It’s easily more frightening than anything found in both the 1979 and 2005 cinematic versions of the Amityville tale and sets the bar for what audiences can expect for the remainder of the running time of The Conjuring 2.

The second helping of The Conjuring is to me slightly superior to the original. It has the same problem that the original film had, problem being that it borrows conceits and ideas from the possession films of the last forty odd years and ends things on a very derivative note.

Having said that, The Conjuring 2 has enough jump out of your seat moments during its first hour or so that it’s hard not find yourself getting on the roller coaster ride that it provides and going with the flow. It’s a lot of fun while the ride lasts.

The true-life case recreated here is not dissimilar to the one found in the first film. It also deals with a possession except this time the setting is in England and in 1977. Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) is a mother of four whose children are terrorized by the apparition in their flat of an old man who apparently died there years earlier. The ghostbusting husband and wife duo, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), are dispatched to the home to prove whether the paranormal happenings are real or imagined. This leads to all kinds of frightening set pieces that eventually give way to the clumsy finale but offer some real goose bump inducing moments along the way.

The Conjuring 2 is exceptionally well shot. I was very impressed with some of the camera angles and the exquisite use of widescreen framing. It works well and it, along with the film’s effective musical cues, manage to serve up a fright film that will most likely please all but the most cynical.

Photo: Madison Wolfe in The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2 is playing in Hickory and many other theaters.

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