The Conjuring 2 continues the story of renowned exorcist and psychic, Ed and Lorraine Warren, dipping once again into their “real” case files. When the church asks them to travel to London and help a single mother plagued by an evil spirit, they can hardly refuse despite Lorraine’s premonitions of doom. Although this film is the sequel to 2013’s The Conjuring, is the third film in the overall Conjuring franchise, following Annabelle. Please note that the following review contains spoilers.
The Conjuring 2 focuses on the Enfield Poltergeist, a haunting that allegedly occurred in the late 1970s. Fans of the series might wonder why director James Wan chooses to concentrate on the Warrens’ lesser-known cases rather than giving the infamous Amityville Horror its due. While Wan has stated his reluctance to reshoot such a well-established horror franchise numerous times, industry insiders also speculate that he cannot obtain the rights to the full Amityville story at this time. Is there hope for the future? Perhaps. In the meantime, Wan seems to have taken full advantage of what Amityville material he could use. I believe this includes the Ghost Boy photo found by the owner of the haunted home many years after the Warrens had left the scene.
During The Conjuring 2‘s opening sequence, a boy with glowing eyes peers from behind a corner at Lorraine. She follows him into the basement, sure that “it” wants to show her something. Her use of “it” struck me as odd both times I watched the movies, not only because he clearly resembles the DeFeo boy she watched die horribly only moments before, but because Lorraine had just been forced to participate against her will in a psychic recreation of his murder. I cannot buy her calling John DeFeo “it” unless a careful director like Wan had a specific reason for her to do so. Either she is trying to distance herself from the trauma on a subconscious level, or her spider sense knows something is wrong with what she is seeing, even if she cannot articulate it yet. The other three DeFeo children soon materialize too. In unison, all four apparitions point towards the spot where the movie’s true villain soon roars into view. Enter Valak, the demon nun!
The name Valak appears at least three times in The Conjuring 2 before Lorraine writes it down in her Bible. I noticed it twice in the Warren kitchen and once on their library bookcase. To my eye, the letters that form his name look like they have been made by a child in all three instances. The Warrens’ daughter shows up in these scenes as well, possibly indicating that she may have been under the demon’s influence since Elaine’s original premonition, pre-Conjuring. As Ed himself says in the first film:
Ed Warren: Whatever Lorraine sees, feels, touches, it helps people, but it also takes a toll on her. Little piece each time. Couple months ago we were working on a case, she saw something.
[We flashback to Lorraine helping the man named Maurice. During his exorcism, he suddenly he grabs her. She senses something horrific and screams.]
Ed Warren: It took a real big piece. When we got home, she went into our room, locked herself in. Didn’t talk, didn’t eat, didn’t come out for eight days.
Roger Perron: What did she see?
[Flashback again to that day when Lorraine is screaming. Ed goes to help her and tries to get the camera out of their faces.]
Ed Warren: [to Roger] I do not know. And I won’t ask.
I believe Valak reached out to Lorraine during the exorcism of Maurice to scare her off, as he sensed even then that she was the stronger of the two demonologists. Although Ed’s swing-the-crucifix-and-kick-down-the-door bravado occasionally helps those under siege in the Conjuring movies, it is always Lorraine’s dedication to love and family that rescues everyone in the end. Evil spirits take down Ed time after time because he depends on strength and Latin, but they cannot seem to get their claws into Lorraine’s less tangible resources, thus making her the far more dangerous opponent.
Within the context of The Conjuring universe, it’s plausible that Ed Warren himself opened the portal that allowed Valak to finally interact physically with the world rather than simply communicate mentally. After all, when Valak reached out to Lorraine and her daughter, all they did was record his name, the very thing needed to exorcise him. Ed painted his portrait, efficiently creating him a vessel and doorway. Now think back to Ed’s study and the rest of the Warren home. Paintings based on past investigations line the walls of his office. Glasses cases filled with malicious objects crowd the back half of the house, supposedly to keep them these items away from the ignorant and vulnerable public, but… hey, everybody! Let’s watch Ed show off his demon paintings, talk on yet TV show about how he fights demons, or cheer up little kids he’s saving from demons again! Yay!
Oh, wow. How demons love an ego.
If Valak had truly wanted to kill Ed, the demon could have done while inspiring him to paint the demon nun, and without interference. This implies to me that Lorraine was always Valak’s target. He should have met Lorraine face-to-face more quickly if he had hoped to possess her, however. As it was, he took too long scrabbling at the minds of the Warren ladies, looking for a way to take them over. Regardless of how badly Elaine tried to ignore her gifts, she had to use the information she had gleaned when the stakes got high. That’s the double-edged sword of demon possession, I guess. The entity must connect with you to get at what hurts you most, but this also leaves it vulnerable in the exact same way.
Unfortunately, that’s where the Conjuring 2 fell apart for me. After all that foreshadowing, the actual showdown with Valak the Demon Nun took less than five minutes. No matter how fantastic your monster looks, that’s a letdown for audiences that have sat through an entire film, aching for the moment of payback. It’s worse for those who have followed character arcs across multiple movies. There’s a Nun movie in the works, which means Wan may tie this all up nicely in the end. Or he may produce another lackluster dud like Annabelle. Who knows.
As it is, I’m satisfied that someone on Wan’s team must have cracked open an actual book on demons rather relying on the expertise of infamous demonologist. Otherwise, I’ll have to assume Valak was reaching out to Wan too. You see, the Ars Goetia reads, “The Sixty-second Spirit is Volac, or Valak, or Valu. He is a President Mighty and Great, and appeareth like a Child…”
The Conjuring 2: ∗∗∗∗
The Conjuring 1 and 2 as a complete arc: ∗∗∗ ½
The Conjuring Franchise: ∗∗ ½
(The picture at the top of this review is named “The Leshy,” as was created for the created for the Goetic spirit Valak on July 24, 2016 using watercolor pencils and markers in about in twenty minutes. I was dripping in sweat and trembling when I was done, and felt like I had tapped into lighting. My cats would not leave any of pieces I created for this demon alone. They rolled on them and kept trying to catch the little black man on the paper.)