Say what you will about the real Ed and Lorraine Warren, but The Conjuring and its sequel The Conjuring 2: Enfield Poltergeist (which we’re discussing today) are some of the best modern horror films of the decade. These films are also two of the scariest films I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not sure if that’s just religious beliefs or what, but demon possession films in general really scare me good. I was really insistent this list included either The Conjuring or Enfield Poltergeist because I love this series so much. I’ve seen the first one a handful of times and hadn’t seen the sequel since its theatrical release so naturally, we chose the second one for that reason and also because its sister film, The Nun dropped in the last month. (The Nun is really not a great film so if you want your fix of that terrifying demon, stick with this film).
Building upon the great things its predecessor gets right, Enfield Poltergeist has some really strong things going for it. It’s got great pacing (though familiar) and great cinematography that in parts mimics The Conjuring such as the tracking shot through the house the first time we see it but it also expands upon all of the things that the first film gets right. There are some truly brilliant sequences in this film too. The most obvious takes places in a sort of premonition where Lorraine sees The Nun in the Warren House and she is locked in a room with the terrifying painting and sees its shadow skulk along the walls to its portrait. Once it finds the painting, these ghastly hands creep out from behind the painting before The Nun rushes at Lorraine. Terrifying. I also love one of the sequences at the Enfield house when they’re testing Janet (Madison Wolfe) to see if she is faking the voice of the spirit she claims has possessed her. In order to prove her legitimacy, they ask her to hold a mouthful of water and see if the spirit will talk. Unfortunately for everyone in the room, she only agrees to do this when everyone turns their back. Fishy. I know. Ed (Patrick Wilson) tells everyone to comply and though he’s in focus, just over his shoulder Janet is severely out of focus so when she suddenly morphs into the terrifying old man ghost you can’t exactly see him but you know he’s there. It’s one of the smartest moments of the film.
Where the film starts to fall apart, however, is in its climax. because Enfield is such a different case from The Conjuring and it’s not your typical possession film, they chose not to go the classic route where the film ends with an exorcism and all is well. That wouldn’t have worked but I’m not convinced the final sequence as they have it now really works either. There’s a lot of running around the house and not a lot of head on battling of the demon. This does make a rather weak ending in comparison to the strength of the rest of the film which can be disappointing but doesn’t hurt the film so badly it turns you off entirely. It just could have been stronger is all.
Speaking of interesting choices in the film, we see for the first time in this series the film tackle the conspiracy surrounding the Warrens. It’s hard to avoid it coming up in conversation about them. There’s a lot of “proof” that they’ve faked all of their evidence and most people think of them as complete crackpots. I’m not convinced they’re entirely telling the truth or spreading lies either way but the choice to bring that into the fold here is smart especially when you consider that Ed and Lorraine were barely involved with this case and certainly not to the extent they were portrayed in the film. Bringing in questions about their legitimacy also opened the door to do this with the Enfield case. The Enfield Poltergeist case is one of the most well-documented cases of paranormal activity period but that’s not to say that all of the evidence people saw was real. Janet and some of the others did later reveal there were times they faked what was happening and others they did not. How do you believe any of it though when you know some of it was a lie? Still, it’s an interesting idea to throw into the mix here.
The film has some great softer moments though between Ed and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and the family, especially Janet. It breaks up the barrage of scares and invites you to care more about the characters which are always one of my favorite parts of these films. When Ed sings some Elvis to the kids it warms your heart or when Lorraine and Ed tell Janet their own struggles with the paranormal growing up. Even if their real-life counterparts weren’t as delightful as Farmiga and Wilson portray them on screen, it’s still such a treat to watch them together. The chemistry between them is so palpable and its a great contrast to the otherwise tense and hostile environment the film builds.
Though not quite as strong as its predecessor, The Conjuring 2 is a standout film in this genre and brings plenty of jump scares and moments to get your heart racing. I’m so excited to see what the third installment of the main series will be and whether it will continue to capitalize on the great work set forth there.