I remember what then was known as the Enfield Poltergeist, and the notoriety the British case gained in the United States and around the world.
So I cannot divorce myself from my prior knowledge and what occurs in “The Conjuring 2,” which turns out to be an average ghost story.
My major quarrel with the film is that it’s “based on a true story.” Parts of it are irrefutably valid: Married paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) were indeed dispatched to this location where reports of a haunting and disturbing occurrences drew the attention of police and the local community.
The show is set in 1977, and I must hand it to the set designers for faithfully recreating the house and the bedroom where much of the activity supposedly occurred. The northern London flat is the dwelling of a single mother (Francis O’Connor) and her four children.
It all starts when 11-year-old Janet (Madison Wolfe, who bears a striking resemblance to the real girl at the heart of the actual events) begins fooling around with a handmade Ouija board.
Soon the girl seems to be channeling the entity of an elderly man who died earlier in the flat. Toys begin to spring to life, too: There’s a scene with a toy fire truck that could have been snipped from about 100 other “haunted child” flicks, including the far superior and iconic “The Exorcist.”
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Elsewhere, Lorraine has some really creepy visions, one of which involves the demise of her husband Ed and a demonic nun whose array of bloody, spiked teeth would give pause to the most fearless dentist.
The activity escalates until, naturally, a priest becomes involved along with the Warrens. Some people accuse the girl of faking the incidents while the Warrens believe her.
The performances are credible all the way around. The standout part of the movie, and by far the most compelling, is the romance between Ed and Lorraine. There’s a great scene in which Ed sings “Can’t Help Falling in Love” a la Elvis (Wilson, incidentally, is a multi-talented performer). The looks exchanged between the couple are the most realistic moment in the whole film.
James Wan (“Saw” and “Insidious”) is a terrific director, and he certainly conjures (couldn’t help it) some “Boo!” moments here.
But I wish he had allowed the viewers to make up their minds about what really happened rather than leading us down the path he took – “true story” may be stretching things a little too far.