Moreso, and less so. James Wan's sequel (or, more accurately, second instalment on what might hopefully be a series of Warren Chronicles) is undeniably bigger, louder, jumpier, darker and creepier than The Conjuring, which was impressively jumpy and dark and creepy to begin with. There's more of everything, from blasphemous demons to moving furniture, to scary noises to 70s period detail. It's also longer - at a substantial 134 minutes it's probably the longest mainstream horror franchise movie in many years, but the time certainly doesn't drag.
To up the ante on the first film, The Conjuring 2 boasts not one but two high-profile hauntings (rather than one, less well-documented case): kicking off with those instantly recognisable upstairs windows of 112, Ocean Avenue, Amityville where Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) are looking into the alleged (and allegedly debunked) supernatural incidents there. In a trance, Lorraine has a vision of a malevolent spirit that causes her to question whether she can continue these investigations - but it's not long before they're called to Enfield, Middlesex to validate claims of increasingly violent paranormal happenings surrounding the Hodgson family: are 11-year-old Janet and her siblings faking possession, levitation and inexplicable noises, or is there something else going on?
It's a pity that these events were already dramatised in a Sky TV mini-series just last year as The Enfield Haunting, as it means much of the story is already familiar. (The Warrens weren't included in the mini-series, while that show's investigator Guy Playfair doesn't appear here, though both feature Maurice Grosse from the Society For Psychical Research, here played by Simon McBurney.) Despite that, the escalating mayhem and terror is still profoundly effective, superbly capturing that feeling of "can't look, must look" where you deliberately try and look away but still can't resist glancing into the darkest corners of the frame. The mundane, domestic setting of a North London semi forms more of a recognisable connection with a UK viewer than the original film's remote farmhouse; the 1977 period detail looks impeccable (Margaret Thatcher and The Goodies show up on TV, the girls' bedroom wall is covered with David Soul posters), the film has a terrific washed-out colour scheme, and Joseph Bishara's score is, as usual, fantastically disturbing listening.
James Wan has now got this formula down to a fine art and it works superbly and effortlessly, whether it's a full-on levitation sequence or a simple child's toy fire engine coming to life in the middle of the night. It doesn't reach the heights of terror of the first Insidious, which had me leaving lights on in the flat for several nights afterwards, but it made me jump and creeped me out far more than any other film this year. Maybe it doesn't feel like it's doing much more than that: whilst there's a little more depth and backstory to the characters, it's mainly concerned with those scares, which it pulls off extraordinarily well. Even when you know they're coming.
Okay, I could have done without the London Calling montage near the start, and like the Insidiou series' scenes in the mystical Further realm, the more fantastical scenes are less scary than the ones taking place in our drab reality (the Crooked Man wasn't nearly as unsettling as he/it should have been). But that's being picky. The Conjuring 2 is superior horror fare: very creepy, scary and hugely enjoyable.
EXTRAS: The featurette Crafting The Conjuring 2 (10:09); the featurette The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror (12:46); the featurette Creating Crooked (6:44); the featurette The Conjuring 2: Hollywood's Haunted Stage (5:08); the featurette The Sounds of Scary (7:00); and five Deleted Scenes (6:31).