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MOVIE REVIEW: 'The Conjuring 2'

Posted at 6:13 AM, Jun 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-10 09:15:08-04

Phil Villarreal's novel, Zeta Male, is available at Amazon.

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The real horror here is that there's a new obnoxious, seemingly annual horror series on our hands.

With "The Conjuring 2," there is new company for the likes of perpetual "Paranormal Activity" releases and the now defunct "Saw" franchise. Boasting that they are based on true stories, the movies explore bizarre tabloid tales of hauntings in the 1970s investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband-and-wife psychic/demonologist ghost-busting team.

Critics labeled the Warrens of being alarmist hucksters who boosted their fame by granting credibility to hoaxers, so take their "true stories" with gravestone-sized grains of salt. But horror flick fans won't be filing into seats for history lessons. They only want to jump out of those seats, then chuckle at themselves and their neighbors for doing the same. In that regard, "The Conjuring 2" delivers as well as "The Conjuring" or its spinoff, "Annabelle."

Those looking for more, though, will be haunted only by lost opportunities. The best horror movies move past gimmicks to instill a nagging dread of buried nightmares that lurk in the dark recesses of the mind, but "The Conjuring" is content to stick you with every cliche in the ghost story playbook. 

Expect slow pans leading up to jarring cuts with close-up flashes of spooky images accompanied with jolting music that is loud and terrifying enough on its own to make you jump out of your skin. There are crosses on the wall that turn upside down, shaking beds and demonic voices that rumble out of possessed victims.

Although "The Conjuring 2" will scare you, it won't surprise you. There are far more eye-rolling moments than eye-dilating ones, from an opening, London-set montage set to the song "London Calling."

Flat performances by the Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), don't help matters. Old hands at the demon-battling trade, their calmness in the face of ghostly happenings is eerily placid, and hokey scenes in which they comfort family members tangling with the apparitions are of the facepalm-worthy, 1980s After School Special variety.

Director James Wan, who was also the maestro of the "Saw" films, is far more adept at crafting paint-by-numbers setups for jump scares than he is at eliciting pathos or telling coherent tales. He's skilled at infusing Korean horror-style visual non sequiturs into standard American slashed flick tropes, but he's seemingly going through the motions this time out.

For a movie that runs more than two and a half hours, that flaccid storytelling is nowhere near enough to keep the whole thing from seeming tired. If Wan continues to conjure these movies, he'll have to find demons with more creativity than those he dredges up here.

RATING: 2 stars out of 4