The Conjuring II: Casting Review

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 3.16.59 PMIt is great to see the entire Casting process unfold. Earlier this year we had an open call for for the character Janet in The Conjuring II. After going through thousands of submissions, Madison Wolfe was selected to play the role of Janet! Madison’s audition video was submitted through Cast It Talent, and now she has a major motion picture under her belt. Now let’s see what our intrepid reviewer has to say about the Casting decision!

We think craft is important, and the irony has always been that horror may be disregarded by critics, but often they are the best-made movies you’re going to find in terms of craft. You can’t scare people if they see the seams.”    -James Wan 

From the filmmaker who gave us Saw and Insidious, director James Wan brings us yet another thrilling horror flick that will give you chills and make you double-check under your bed at night. This sequel focuses again on the Warrens of Connecticut, real-life ghost hunters and experts on the paranormal. Known mainly for their cast in Amityville, this virtuous couple shows up again to attempt to rid an innocent family of their life-threatening, demonic happenings. We take a plunge into a dark 70’s world that is reminiscent to classics like The Exorcist and The Omen, with seamless CGI and demonic voices that up the ante in a thrilling way.

We open with Ed (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) sitting at a table while Lorraine is having a clairvoyant experience about the Amityville House family. At the end of her spiritual quest she has an image of her husband being killed, and afterwards begs him to take a hiatus from any more cases. It’s not merely an attempt to lay low, she is sincerely shaken to the bone and is desperate to forgo any more ghost chasing. But when the Catholic Church requests their assessment of a troublingly intractable situation in England, they pack their Bible and head to north London.

There the couple is introduced to Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), an exhausted single mother with four children, who claims that evil spirits are haunting their house and causing the children to be frightened. It started in the room of the two older girls, Janet (Madison Wolfe) and Margaret (Lauren Esposito) after Janet brought out a ouija board in hopes to get answers about her father leaving the picture. The girls would hear knocking, the beds would shake and covers would be ripped off, and Janet would find herself waking up out of a dead sleep to be in the living room…not knowing at all how she got there. Soon Janet seems to be at the forefront of the demon’s prowess, when she starts talking in a strange voice claiming she is a man named Bill Wilkins, who was a resident in the apartment long before the Hodgson’s moved in who died in his sleep in a chair. Peggy begs the Warrens to stay, and after interviews and house checks from the police…they are truly the family’s only hope.

Cinematographer Don Burgess’ camera sweeps and dives to give us a dramatic look around the houses and quiet streets, while the demonic voices and eery settings provides a backbone to tension around every corner. Vera Farmiga is stunning with her horrific expressions, and has a strong will that is well-represented for a leading lady. The original Lorraine is credited as a consultant of the film, which surely helped with the integrity of the story. Frances O’Connor was equally as impressive, though there were things that seemed to be a bit unbelievable, such as leaving her children alone to go galavanting in the flooded basement with Ed.

There are a few instances that seem to be contrived, such as the Crooked Man who comes out to scare the youngest boy, Billy, in the midst of Janet’s demonic possession. Seems that this character could be avoided altogether to save room for the main demon on hand, while shaving some time off the longer-than-should-be flick. Wan seems notorious for wanting to weave in many stories into one, where we are confronted with multiple ghosts and demons when it could be just as effective to focus on one (maybe two).

Madison Wolfe is a shining star in the film. She has an unspoken wisdom like that of Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, and nails the british accent (which she showed Wan in their initial interview). On her own she purchased a brown wig and contacts to darken her look, and did as many of her own stunts as she was allowed. The director still can’t believe that he found the spine of the film in an adorable southern kid from New Orleans.

While staying at the house the Warrens consult with other paranormal investigators, who have speculations on the truthfulness of the family. After the investigators find footage that implies that Janet may be an attention-seeking teenager, the Warrens pack up to head back to the states. On the train the couple listens one last time to footage, and after a discovery races back to the house for one last try, even though Lorraine knows that her husband’s life is in danger. Here the film erupts in horror as they find Janet being possessed once more and the rest of the Hodgsons locked outside the house. A lightning strike hits a tree near the house, leaving a jagged stump resembling the object that impaled Ed in Lorraine’s vision. Ed gets inside the house to find Janet standing by the window, in an attempt of suicide. He manages to grab Janet just in time as Lorraine belts out the name of the biblical figure she had written in her bible while having one of her visions.

Taking away the few cheesy parts that are sprinkled throughout, Conjuring 2 certainly delivers on dramatic suspense and is a smashing success when it comes to sequels.

 

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Jess

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