Few phrases make me more skeptical in a movie than "based on a true story."  When that "true story" is a controversial and disputed case of paranormal activity, I become even more doubtful.  But despite that element, The Conjuring 2 is an effective and thoughtful delve into the horror genre.

When the movie opens, Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are investigating the events at the house in Amityville.  This case gives the couple fame as paranormal investigators -- and criticism as promoting frauds and fakes.  In addition, Lorraine has visions of a demonic being dressed as a nun, and of Ed being killed, so she wants them to stop investigating supernatural cases.
Meanwhile in Enfield, England, the Hodgson family (a now-sing mother and four young kids) are encountering unnerving events in their small two-story home.  At first these seem like small events -- such as noises in the middle of the night, furniture moving, and toys rolling around on their own -- but soon the events become more extreme and violent.  Worse, 11-year-old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) is walking in her sleep, seemingly talking to someone who isn't there, and seems to be the focus of the events.  The Warrens are called in, er, over to investigate and to determine whether the church should get involved with the case.
Director James Wan, who also directed The Conjuring, continues to combine the procedural drama with the supernatural.  The signs of the haunting might otherwise be a cliche of horror, but here they feel more real as the family struggled and wearies, while the Warrens try to balance their work, their family (the daughter seems to have similar visions to her mother), and their religious faith with what could be a hoax or could be something out to destroy a family.  The Conjuring 2 isn't quite as tight and focused as its predecessor, but it's still an intelligent and fairly spooky trip.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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