Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
The Conjuring 2 should have been more of the same. Instead, it’s just 2 much. There’s so much plot here, and so many extraneous effects, that the real spookiness at the movie’s heart is obscured. The story is based, roughly, on the true-life and sort-of famous Enfield hauntings of the late 1970s, in which a working-class family living in a council house in northern London were tormented by a strange presence, one that seemed particularly fixated on preteen Janet Hodgson (played here by Madison Wolfe). The case attracted lots of media attention in Great Britain, and a Google search will bring up pictures of the real-life Janet Hodgson levitating—or “levitating,” depending on your level of skepticism—from her bed. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the pictures of this small, skinny girl in her nightie, seemingly leaping from her bed with all muscles tensed, are strange and spooky.
The Conjuring 2 captures a sense of that ominousness—until Wan becomes distracted, throwing in dozens of other things (like a malevolent spirit taking shape from a creepy toy) that don’t need to be there, and repeating certain effects (a grouch-spirit growling “This is my house”) so many times that they lose their potency.