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  Conjuring 2, The False Frights
Year: 2016
Director: James Wan
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O'Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAulay, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Robin Atkin Downes, Bonnie Aarons, Javier Botet
Genre: Horror, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year was 1977, and the psychic investigators the Warrens, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), were poring over the recent case at Amityville where the Lutz family claimed they had been driven out of their house by evil spirits, a house that previously had been the scene of a mass murder by one son of the rest of his close family, the DeFeos. The Warrens staged a séance to work out what had really happened, and when they did Lorraine saw a vision of the killings, along with a glimpse of a demon who was to come back and haunt her later that year as she and her husband were called in to investigate the most celebrated poltergeist case that Britain had ever seen, the haunting of a little girl in Enfield...

Naturally, as with the previous Conjuring movie, the scariest thing about this was that many audiences would believe this was historically accurate, when it was actually a fabrication very loosely based on real events. The Enfield Poltergeist is still discussed today as one of the most convincing hauntings of all time, thanks to its extensive investigation by Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair, their book on the subject considered a classic of its type. On the other hand, it is also still discussed as one of the most obvious hoaxes of its day, with a child fooling all those adults into believing there was a possession underway in that council house, though there is a third opinion that there was something inexplicable happening there, but it was prolonged by Janet Hodgson's antics.

Those included being able to put on a deep, rasping voice, which most kids can do after all, but her pronouncements in those tones were held up as proof an elderly gent who had died in the house previous to the Hodgsons moving in was speaking through her, which is the sort of red flag to a bull that sets sceptics disbelieving the rest of the story. In this film, the actress playing Janet (American Madison Wolfe with bad teeth in) was dubbed with an actual deep-voiced actor, just one example of the egregious invention applied to what if it had been filmed straight, that was with a high degree of accuracy to the account in the book, might have been a nice, spooky little tale instead of the insufferable bombast we were inflicted with here.

It was not just the little anachronisms that niggled, such as the songs on the soundtrack from the wrong era, the remote control for the television, or the policeman with long hair, it was the great big stonking bullshit director James Wan and his writing team had thrown into a very British story that Americanised it so badly it was unrecognisable from what Grosse and Playfair had told us (the latter was not depicted here; the former was played by Simon McBurney in makeup that was the most accurate element of the whole affair). As the Hodgsons cowered in the world's most massive council house, these clowns flung all sorts of scariness at them to have their experiences related in a manner more appropriate to an instalment of the Insidious franchise, adding for instance a cellar that was full of water - why didn't Mrs Hodgson (Frances O'Connor) call the council if there was a leak?

I can tell you, it was because Ed had to wade through the water and be attacked by an upper set of dentures (seriously), which should give you some idea of how divorced from reality this was. Not to mention the huge house itself was an absolute dump, they looked as if they were living in a squat, far removed from the photographic evidence illustrated at the end that showed the place as pokey but perfectly neat and maintained. The Warrens, who barely spent a couple of days in England, were crowbarred in to make themselves the centre of the story, "Bill" now the conduit of one of those demons the fundamentalist Christians (with the emphasis on "mental") insisted on blaming everything on. Oh, and the demon in question (added thanks to indifferent test audience reaction) was apparently Marilyn Manson in nun drag. Everything about this was all about aggrandising them, an insult to the people who were really involved with its sensationalism; it wasn't alone, there had been a recent television drama based on the case that had made up most of its story too, but when the book was right there, begging for a decent adaptation, The Conjuring 2 was nothing short of infuriating. Music by Joseph Bishara.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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