THE CONJURING 2 (2016, James Wan)
What a weird and antithetical genre piece to expand into a big-budget blockbuster. This is what happens when cynical producers, motivated by insurmountable greed, let their bony fingers squeeze a talented director dry. THE CONJURING was a small-budget (relatively) haunted house movie that was unbelievably scary and single-mindedly earnest, even if it was hamstrung by an over-reliance on religious clichés. But whatever Wan learned on FURIOUS SEVEN (the best entry in its franchise), he ill-advisedly brought it to this mind-numbing sequel. It’s bigger, louder, longer, shriekier, and nearly a disaster.
Patrick Wilson gets one good, charming scene (serenading the family to Elvis), but Farmiga is stranded by awful dialogue and a mix of self-serious preaching with corny warm-hearted yearning. Frances O’Connor is there to wander into every scene horrified, shouting “I sore it wiv me own oiz!” The story is more insipid than it has any right to be, especially the Rumpelstiltskin bullshit (planted by some of the most obvious foreshadowing ever – Wan basically directing your eye to the clues for 30 minutes straight in the first act) but also the best argument for just leave the house if it’s haunted in this tired genre. You’ll spend most of the movie rolling your eyes at its smug idiocy when you’re not drifting off to sleep from a sluggish pace and failure to provide any surprises. A couple jump scares work (and The Crooked Man is inspired in a BABADOOK-ish way), because Wan hasn’t totally lost his touch — but once he’s been seduced by mega-budget special effects titans, he shouldn’t bring those touches to what needs to be a modest, chilling creeper.