As small businesses go, the one offered by Ed and Lorraine Warren was not structured around inventories and bookkeeping details like assets and liabilities / debits and credits. And face it, unlike a mom-and-pop business, their work as paranormal investigators was fraught with very scary things and even mortal danger.
We first met Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) in 2013 with “The Conjuring.” With their ability to break into the paranormal realm, this real-life couple portrayed by Wilson and Farmiga offered a valuable service to those whose lives were besieged by by restless or downright nasty spiritual elements.
In “The Conjuring,” the Warrens took their lumps but apparently emerged victorious over the evil post-death entity of Bathsheba, an accused witch who picked on the Perron family in Rhode Island in the early 1970s, hoping for some child sacrifices.
As “The Conjuring 2” begins, the Warrens are doing their own investigation of the famed Amityville haunting, and while they got nothing conclusive, Lorraine did experience a terrifying vision and premonition, frightening enough that Lorraine tells Ed they should dial back their efforts to confront and dispatch these ghostly entities.
But the Warrens are pressed back into action in 1977 when the Hodgson family living in an older house north of London begins experiencing unnerving things. Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) already has enough problems, with her husband leaving her and the four Hodgson children for another woman in the neighborhood.
Soon the usual haunted house incidents start occurring: loud thumps, furniture moving, battery-operated toys turning on by themselves. Before long, the second-oldest daughter, Janet (Madison Wolfe) becomes the victim of strange things, including finding herself awake in the middle of the night but not in her bed.
Meanwhile, back in the states, Lorraine finds Ed doing a sketching of a creepy looking nun, saying he’s been seeing this vision. Well, that startles Lorraine since she has seen the same deathly-enhanced nun in her visions.
The Warrens are asked to go to London to check out the Hodgson case — going there only to observe and make recommendations but otherwise no get too involved.
Their investigation points to a haunting by a former resident, an old man who died in the house. But there also is evidence that it all might be a hoax engineered by Janet. Even Lorraine admits she can feel nothing within her senses to indicate a true haunting or possession. Ed is frustrated, and still believes there might be some legitimate paranormal activity, although there is overwhelming documented evidence Janet is indeed making thing whole thing up. The Warrens have no choice but to go home.
Luckily, before they can do that, Ed realizes he has some hard documentation of a true haunting and/or possession. By the time the Warrens get back to the Hodgson residence, things have escalated and they learn that this is more than just some old man, embittered about dying alone, trying to scare the current residents.
“The Conjuring 2” is packed with jolts and scares, and enhanced by truly sympathetic characters. O’Connor is exceptional as Peggy, a loving, harassed single mother of four having to keep it together under circumstances she never could have imagined. Wolfe presents a restless innocence and vulnerability that makes her experiences staggeringly and unrelentingly horrifying.
Wilson and Farmiga do share a chemistry, conveying a unique bonding of two people with rare gifts and a formidable and unified force based on a solid foundation of love.
The real-life Lorraine Warren has said this case has haunted her more than any others, And in recalling this terrifying episode, director James Wan, working from a script on which he collaborated with David Leslie Johnson and Carey Hayes and Chad Hayes, continues to prove his mastery in the horror element, adding the “Conjuring” movies to his already established efforts with “Insidious” and “Saw.”