On the heels of the 2013 The Conjuring comes another James Wan-directed horror film, The Conjuring 2, but it is a bit of a stretch to call it a sequel. It does not continue the case of the Perron family hysterics in Rhode Island, but rather presents another one, that of the Enfield Poltergeist in England, 1977 to 1979.
The link is that both outbreaks marginally involved the notorious Ed and Lorraine Warren—claimed “demonologist” and “clairvoyant”—who made something of a career of convincing families their “ghosts” or “poltergeists” were really demons, and attempting to spark book or movie deals. Their co-authors have since admitted that Ed encouraged them to fabricate elements to make the stories “scary.” To be sure, Guy Lyon Playfair, the investigator and gullible chronicler of the Enfield case (This House Is Haunted, 1980), says he recalls that the Warrens did “turn up once . . . and all I can remember is Ed Warren telling me that he could make a lot of money for me out of it” (quoted by Tim Wood, online at https://livescifi.tv/2016/06/movie-conjuring-2-based-true-story/; accessed June 29, 2016).
In my analysis of the case (Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 2012), utilizing my magician’s background, I showed that the phenomena in question—knockings, flung objects, a mysterious muffled “Voice,” etc., that suspiciously centered around schoolgirls Janet and her sister Peggy—were surely produced by them. A photo sequence shows Janet—not “levitating” as claimed but simply jumping on her bed. A professional ventriloquist visited and determined the girls were producing the Voice to get attention. Janet was actually caught playing tricks, and she and her sister confessed their deceptions to reporters. However, Playfair and his colleague Maurice Gross soon obtained a retraction from the girls, and Playfair still continues to profess belief in the reality of the “poltergeist” phenomena. (Curiously he had no role in the film.)
The Conjuring 2 begins with the Warrens’ involvement in the Amityville Horror in 1976 (a case now known to have been a hoax). A year later they are called to Enfield (a northern suburb of London) by the local church, according to the film which begins to Hollywoodize the story. Now the Warrens become central figures in the events.
Spoiler alert: In a curious bit of skepticism for an exploitative horror movie, Janet is revealed in a hidden video playing poltergeist and wrecking the kitchen. Of course, we soon learn that the devil made her do it. A demon mastermind named Valak has been creeping into Lorraine’s clairvoyant visions, and the poltergeist case is transformed into a demonic one.
In the final action, one of Lorraine’s earlier visions sets the scene. A possessed Janet is standing by an upstairs window about to jump to her death (to be impaled on a jagged stump) when Ed grabs her just in time. However, he too is about to fall when Lorraine enters and confronts Valak. Using her God-given power she commands the demon to Hell, then pulls both Ed and Janet from the brink. And so the couple that Roger Perron (not the actor playing him in The Conjuring) called “a pair of two-bit charlatans are redeemed by Hollywood. They become stars in an extended commercial for their medieval version of religion. That’s what’s really scary.
Rating: One and a half wooden nickels (out of four).