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Ghostbusters, too

The Conjuring (2013) was not only a surprise hit– grossing over $300 million worldwide– but also earned critical acclaim surprising for a horror film. The obligatory sequel, The Conjuring 2, looks to replicate, and perhaps surpass, its predecessor on both counts.

The film, promoted as a true story, continues the story of the noted real-life parapsychologist couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). After a crackling opening in Amityville (guess why?), The Conjuring 2 then delves into the “Enfield Haunting” of the late 1970s, one of the most notorious such events in English history.

Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children are barely scraping by in the blue-collar neighborhood. Her husband having deserted them, Peggy is at loose ends both emotionally and economically – and things are about to get a whole lot worse, and a whole lot scarier. Daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) appears to be the target of a malevolent spirit determined to make their lives a living hell.

Director/producer/screenwriter James Wan, encoring from the first film, has emerged as an impressive filmmaker, particularly in the genre. He knows well his scare tactics and knows when to implement them. The Conjuring 2 is deservedly rated R, but there’s little – if any – blood on display. Instead he relies on the build-up and the audience’s anticipation. Things definitely go bump in the night, and worse: Loud rapping, shaking beds, horrific images that emerge from the shadows. Even for the most jaded horror fan, the film boasts some good jolts throughout.

For all its attributes, which are enough to pretty much guarantee further installments, The Conjuring 2 has a major tendency toward over-length. It’s refreshing that time be devoted to establishing the characters and their predicament, but once established repetition looms. In addition, the climax – which echoes the original Poltergeist (1982) – is drawn-out. On the whole, however, this is expertly packaged scare fare.

Wilson and Farmiga bring a conviction and a warmth to the real-life “Ghostbusters” (or “Ghost Seekers”), and Wilson also does a pretty fair impression of Elvis Presley. Wolfe is a standout as the jeopardized child, and O’Connor convincingly essays her beleaguered mother. Simon McBurney, the 21st-century equivalent of Henry Daniell (ace character actor of the ‘40s and ‘50s, who boasted one of the best sneers in the business), enjoys a quirky change-of-pace as the eager but sympathetic British parapsychologist Maurice Gosse. Franka Potente, who seemed on the verge of international stardom after Run Lola Run (1998) and the early Bourne movies, is saddled with the one-note role of the obligatory naysayer. !

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