The Warrens are at it again. Finally, some might say, given the general good feeling their original outing received. I too really enjoyed the original, so here I sit on opening night, keen to see what James Wan and the assembled crew make of seventies London. Or Enfield, to be precise.
And if I’m honest, my heart sank a little after the pre-title Amityville escapades. “This is as close to hell as I ever want to get”, opines Lorraine (Farmiga) to her dutiful husband Ed (Wilson) and then we cut to a frenetic London Grammar school playground, as we’re blasted by The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ and a tourist editing frenzy of the sights and sounds of our murky inner city capital at the time that no-one outside of the film industry had even heard of Luke Skywalker.
However, it still takes a good hour before the notion of the Warren’s even going to Enfield to investigate crops up. In the intervening period, we have plenty of mucking about in the dark at night as the family on the receiving end of the Warren’s next job try and cope with a malevolent spirit by the name of Bill Wilkins, who appears to be intermittently inhabiting/possessing their youngest daughter, if the not overly convincing voice changes are anything to go by, at least.
Most akin to ‘When The Lights Go Out’, Wan’s attempt at seventies London seems to go only so far as pictures of Starsky & Hutch and Joanna Lumley adorning the bedroom walls plus the fashion faux pas and the bright red London buses. The acting in this first hour can only dream of being quite as good as that similar premise, albeit When The Lights Go Out was a good deal more provincial and Northern, which may be something our American cousins may have had trouble digesting. This is a good deal less subtle and what it lacks in class, it makes up for in standard horror clichés.
By the time Ed and Lorraine do turn up, you’ll probably be already tiring of things that go bump in the night and the regular nocturnal interruption to the family sleep pattern. Mostly lacking an accompanying score of note, you might expect the relative slience, punctuated by bursts of audible chaos might be more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the moments of tension, when they come, are hampered, rather than heightened by it.
In all, a ropey and unconvincing first half, followed by an average second where Farmiga has more of a presence, which is no bad thing. The father of this family is notable by his absence, which is odd, given that he’s fathered twins with a woman around the corner. Personally, I’d be round like a shot. Parenting 101 anybody? Altogether though, this is uninspired stuff from Wan and he relies heavily on familiarity and leaves little room for invention. It does raise the odd chuckle, but maybe for the wrong reasons (Wilson does Elvis, for example). For horror purists, this is not as welcome as the original, despite Wan’s best intentions and our own positive anticipation.