The Conjuring 2 (4 stars)

The Conjuring 2

Superior sequel reuniting director James Wan with stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson

Fans of the 'real' Enfield Poltergeist story will be grumpy ('Wait, that didn't really happen!'). However, they'd be well advised to hang in there. The Conjuring 2 might take a few liberties but it is also that rare thing: a better sequel. It improves on an already terrific story with its canny use of the best horror techniques known to Hollywood.

Director James Wan – who broke through with 2004's Saw, and honed his craft on Insidious and The Conjuring – sets this rain-soaked thriller mainly in London, 1977. There, the aforementioned haunting morphs into a full-blown demonic catastrophe that attracts famous real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (once again played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The couple step in to save single mum Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor – very good with her minuscule screen-time) and her children, only to divine that all is not as it seems.

As an attempt to bring, as Wan puts it, 'respect back to studio horror filmmaking', The Conjuring 2 succeeds. Like its predecessor, the film is incredibly beautiful in its cinematography, production design, wardrobe and period detail. It also triumphs in terms of pure, deliberate frights. Wan has the audience in his hands as he times every scare with skill – the impact all the greater because we care about the Warrens, Mrs Hodgson, and even the washing machine in the basement that won't work.

The Warrens' selfless courage may seem idealistic but, as they delve deeper into the possession, events feel creepily credible. Even hardened horror fans will find themselves covered in gooseflesh, as this spooky sequel ratchets up the tension like thumbscrews.

The impressive characterisation gives the film an appeal to those who don't like horror, as well as those who do. Finely tuned performances, an almost seamlessly structured story, and an excuse to cower together, means this is one hell of a date movie. As your eyes moisten with terror, watching The Conjuring 2 will make you wish you were wearing a cross, whether you're Christian or not.

General release from Fri 17 Jun.

The Conjuring 2

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 2h 14min
  • 15
  • Directed by: James Wan
  • Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O'Connor
  • UK release: 17 June 2016

Paranormal investigators Lorraine (Farmiga) and Ed (Wilson) travel to Britain to witness the poltergeist activity happening in the house of Peggy (O'Connor). Meticulous and very well-crafted horror, with engaging and sympathetic characters and a sense of real terror. One hell of a date movie.