I wrote this one for Project iRadio back when THE CONJURING 2 came to the big screen. It’s no secret how I feel about Ed and Lorraine Warren and their bullshit, #hacks. Ed was a sexual abuser and Lorraine was a dimwit. They were also the ghost hunters at the forefront of the movement in the ‘70s. And now, the movie franchise based on their “adventures” are box office gold.
The race card has been thrown at the legacy of HP Lovecraft as of late. The World Fantasy Awards took him off their statue simply because the man had adverse political views to those in today’s culture. He’s been vilified by social justice warriors and figuratively burned at the stake for being a man of his time. Were his social and political views archaic? Absolutely. But no one can deny his talent, however ignorant he may have been to human rights, and the bottom line is you can’t change the dead. They’re dead. You can’t rehabilitate them. You can’t educate them. They’re dead and stinking in the ground. And I think the majority out there understand this. You see, despite all of this negative attention, Lovecraft remains the most influential figure in the history of horror fiction. Personally, I find the tidbits of his beliefs that seeped into his stories added to the horror of the narratives.
By contrast, let us look at the Warrens, the (in)famous demonologists that became pseudo-celebrities in the 1970s and 80s because of their involvement in famous supernatural cases. The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut. They touched both of these, and of course, the Enfield Poltergeist, among others. Recently the Warrens have had a resurgence of popularity due to James Wan and his 2013 film THE CONJURING, written by Chad & Carey Hayes. The film was a huge success and spawned a less than stellar spin-off, ANNABELLE, and now the sequel THE CONJURING 2. And the sequel has made a boatload of dough, and though I’m happy a horror movie has had success, it’s making me sick to my stomach. Why does this bother me, yet Lovecraft’s racism doesn’t? Because Lovecraft is an anachronism and one of the Warrens is living, still perpetuating lies to the masses.
Lorraine and Ed Warren were, are and always have been, attention-seeking hacks. I mean no disrespect to the late Mr. Warren, as I mentioned previously, you can’t change dead. But Lorraine Warren lives to this day, and she’s been discredited on more than one occasion by professionals in many mediums. She was banned for the remainder of her life from Coast to Coast Radio for her refuted lying. Keep in mind that the latter, George Noory and company, believe in ancient aliens and Bigfoot, among other preposterous modern myths. But, like Harry Houdini, they also debunk bullshit. And Lorraine Warren oozes in it. Award-winning author Ray Garton has done everything in his power to separate himself from his involvement in the Snedeker Haunting, also known as The Haunting In Connecticut, admitting in 2011 that isn’t a work of non-fiction and that Ed Warren himself instructed him to embellish the story. Hacks. And it is this very fact that causes me to have issues watching movies based on their exploits. The basis for THE CONJURING 2, The Enfield Poltergeist, has been debunked by many professionals, as has the AMITYVILLE HORROR, since.
I won’t deny the films are well made. If I look at them as fiction and not being “based on a true story,” the same way a person should ignore Lovecraft’s politics when reading his material, I enjoy the films. I won’t deny that James Wan and the Hayes have hits on their hands. The genre needs more films to have this success. Did I enjoy THE CONJURING and THE CONJURING 2? Yes, especially during those rare moments wherein I was able to suspend belief in the Warrens. I’ve not seen ANNABELLE, so I can’t pass judgment on that property, but the general consensus is the film was rushed and poorly made. Regardless of the latter’s failure, we now have a Warren-verse created at New Line, another cash cow franchise the studio can expand upon. And whereas THE CONJURING spawned ANNABELLE; THE CONJURING 2 is now rumored to have spawned THE NUN. A last minute character added to the film, replacing a horned demon in reshoots, Valak, the evil Nun of the story, has horror icon painted all over it. With the Nun, THE CONJURING 2 has birthed a new face to the annals of horror iconography that, when you think about it, should have been there all along. It’s this character that ultimately saves the production.
On the surface, THE CONJURING 2 itself is a near carbon copy of THE CONJURING. Setting aside my biases toward the Warrens and looking at with a critic’s eye, the film is OK and passable entertainment. It has high production values and (mostly) excellent special effects (we’ll talk about this more in a minute), however, the story itself is patched together poorly, despite matching the first film almost beat for beat. It’s eerie how similar the beats are, like the two versions of Don’t Cry that Guns N Roses gave us a quarter-century ago. The Warrens are a side story to the main story. The Warrens were accompanied home by a nefarious demon. The hitchhiking demon affects the Warrens and places a family member in jeopardy. The two stories run side by side, culminating in the Warrens involvement in the main story while battling the demon. They’re nearly the same movie. But THE CONJURING 2’s mix is off, and it’s more than the difference between a possessed doll and a Nun from Hell.
THE CONJURING allowed one to bond with the afflicted family by opening with their plight. CONJURING 2 opens with the Warrens investigating Amityville and first encountering the Nun. Because of this we now perceive, as a viewer, that movie is about the Warrens and not the family. It removes any sense of urgency from the story and separates the viewer from the family in danger, making it more a made for TV procedural that we know is going to have a happy ending. Wan unintentionally dropped the ball simply by misplacing the opening scenes.
To top it off, it’s never totally clear what nefarious supernatural force is the cause of the trouble in Enfield. Is it the spirit of the old man? Is it the Nun? Is it the Crooked Man? And just who in the heck is this Crooked Man, anyway? I’ll tell you who he is, he’s another beef I have with the movie. He’s teased throughout the film in a child’s musical toy, yet when he finally shows up it’s an underwhelming disappointment. The scene took me right out of the movie. The Crooked Man looked fake and I groaned as he literally unfolded before my eyes. I’ve since learned it was a combination of an actor (Javier Botet) in costume and CGI, which made me shake my head even more. Regardless of what it was, the Crooked Man didn’t work for me and nearly ruined the film. If not for the Nun, I think I could have passed THE CONJURING 2 off as another failed sequel.
Don’t read Lovecraft to focus on the man’s faults. We can’t change history, we can only learn from it. On the same token, don’t watch THE CONJURING 2 to see something historically true. Watch it to see a mostly well-made scary movie, even if it is re-hacked bullshit.