Nothing in The Conjuring 2 can match the terrific hide-and-clap sequence from the earlier film – let’s face it, that was always going to be hard to top – but that’s not to say this sequel doesn’t pack its share of solid scares. With 2013’s The Conjuring, director James Wan, creator of both the Saw and Insidious franchises, managed to pump fresh blood into a genre as creaky as the haunted house thriller. This time he gives us a slow-building pressure-cooker of a film that’s a respectable follow-up.

Set in 1977, not long after their success in the now famous Amityville case, the film sees hotshot paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) dispatched to London to look into the complaints of a family who claim they’re being terrorised by a spirit.

Cash-strapped single mom Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four kids are dealing with a lot in their home – toys go on by themselves in the night, furniture starts flying across the room, and there are frequent rumblings and rattlings from behind the walls that can’t be explained. But things really come to a boil when youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) begins to growl in an old man’s voice, and their lives become seriously endangered.

The film’s period setting and England’s gloomy weather contribute a lot by way of atmospherics, and the Hodgson home in a working-class London suburb is all kinds of creepy with unsettling dark corners and rotting damp walls. Wan sets up the mood for some effective scares, giving us the kind of jump-in-your-seat moments we’ve come to expect from him now. Creepiest of all is a scene involving a framed painting on a wall, and the appearance of long white fingers from behind it.

But like the earlier film, what really separates this one from your standard issue horror movie is the level of performance that Wilson and Farmiga bring to the table. They’re such good actors they sell the audience on even the cheesier aspects of the story, and of course on the romantic bond between the couple.

Although it feels way too long at roughly 133 minutes, and takes many liberties with the truth while still insisting it’s based on true events, The Conjuring 2 ultimately succeeds in delivering slow-mounting dread punctuated by powerful moments of absolute terror. I’m going with three out of five. I don’t know if I can see a nun dressed in a habit without a chill going down my spine.

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