I know the idea of ‘aggressive mediocrity’ is somewhat contradictory in that mediocrity is almost by definition milquetoast and lacking in passion, but there’s no other way I can find to describe James Wan’s The Conjuring 2.
The original movie was one of those horror movies that was so risk-adverse that (much to no one’s surprise, I suspect) the only thing approaching scary was Wan’s slavish devotion to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.
Wan, for the sequel moves the brunt of the action – so to speak – from the United States to England as Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are asked by the Catholic Church to investigate a supposed haunting of the Enfield family.
The Warrens are renown for what they do by this time, though Lorraine senses that there’s a evil present that seeks Ed’s doom, so she’s reluctant to take any further cases.
As I mention in my video review, Wan as a director doesn’t seem capable of depicting this blatantly ridiculous material in a manner that doesn’t make it seem as silly as it actually is (despite how seriously Wilson and Farmiga seem to take it) though when Ed decides to take up painting (a talent I was unaware he possessed though he’s way too good at it to have started recently (maybe if the prior movie had hinted at this ability?) and just happened to have painted the entity that is plaguing Lorraine.
So, despite all the weird stuff the couple has encountered, she decides not only to not tell him (!?) but to put the ridiculously sinister painting (a trend in these movies that they can’t seem to let go) in their rec room.
And speaking of this painting, there’s a scene a bit later in the movie revolving around it that’s perhaps the most brilliant thing Wan has ever done.
It’s so brilliant that if the movie had a quarter of the inventiveness of this particular scene I might be singing Wan’s praises, instead of trying to warn people to avoid either The Conjuring or it’s sequel (that is, if you like your horror intense. If you don’t mind the weaker stuff, indulge yourself).
The third movie in the series, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2012) was directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona (2019)) – Wan was likely too busy overstuffing the Aquaman sequel with plot lines to helm the threequel – so there’s a chance that maybe it aims higher than Wan did with the prior two movies.
Though let’s just say I wouldn’t bet my soul on it.