'Conjuring 2' provides a second helping of scares

Ultimately, it doesn’t hit that mark, but “The Lobster” does emerge as one of the strangest – and most original – films in recent memory.

Building off the success of its predecessor, “The Conjuring 2” is another solid haunted house thriller. It may not be quite as good as the original, which was a breath of fresh air when it was released three summers ago, but it is still a cut above most films in this genre.

“The Conjuring 2” is again based on cases from real-life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who specialize in paranormal activities.

The film opens with a prologue that links Ed and Lorraine to the infamous Amityville Horror case but quickly shifts focus to northern London, where a single mother (Frances O’Connor) becomes concerned when her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) is stalked by an evil spirit.

Still shaken from what happened in Amityville, Lorraine is reluctant to get involved at first. That changes as the spirit grows increasingly dangerous to Janet and her family’s well-being.

“The Conjuring” series has essentially turned into a paranormal version of “Law and Order,” with the thrills grounded in an almost procedural manner. Wilson and Farmiga help give the series that bit of realism with strong performances you don’t often see in the horror genre. Wolfe is also good in a tricky bit of work where she is asked to go from scared child to possessed demon at the drop of a hat. She manages to be both creepy and sympathetic, giving the film its heart and soul.

But most people aren’t coming to “The Conjuring 2” for strong acting. They are there for scares, and director James Wan delivers as his camera creates tension out of the most mundane moments. Sure, it’s a lot of the same parlor tricks that horror fans have seen before, but Wan knows how to use those tricks to build the tension and does it in a very proficient manner.

“The Conjuring 2” does suffer a little bit from its padded 134-minute running time, but fortunately any time the film feels like it is starting to drag Wan has another scare up his sleeve – providing the film with enough goosebumps to satisfy anyone looking for a good fright.

Also opening this week

After a run in larger markets, “The Lobster” (B+) arrives in Bowling Green this weekend. It’s a razor-sharp dark comedy that is sure to alienate some audience members while utterly fascinating others.

Yorgos Lanthimos directed and co-wrote this offbeat tale set in a futuristic society where single people check into a hotel that serves as a treatment center to help them find the perfect match. A person is given 45 days to find the match or else they are turned into an animal of their choosing, forced to live the rest of their existence as that animal.

David (Colin Farrell) is one of the latest inhabitants, a shy recent divorcee who starts to think perhaps love has evaded him. Those feelings change when he escapes the hotel and meets a group of refugees that includes a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz). David and the woman develop an instant attraction but must keep it a secret or risk a fate even worse than being turned into an animal.

Yes, this all sounds strange, but it is done in a way that is for the most part rather brilliant.

It’s as if Stanley Kubrick blended with David Lynch to create a macabre society where being alone is seen as an incurable disease. The film’s best moments come in the first half, with some sharp social commentary evolving from David’s interactions with clients in the hotel.

Lanthimos creates scenes that had me laughing, yet disturbed (perhaps that I was laughing) and thoroughly engaged in what was going to happen next.

The film does drop off a bit in the second half, when the romance begins to take shape and the film takes a bit sweeter turn. But it never loses that witty cynicism that nearly makes “The Lobster” stand out among the best of the year.

Ultimately, it doesn’t hit that mark, but “The Lobster” does emerge as one of the strangest – and most original – films in recent memory.

“The Lobster” is rated R for sexual content including dialogue and some violence and opens Friday at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10.

— To read Micheal Compton’s review of “Maggie’s Plan” and get his thoughts on other films, visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or on Twitter @mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com

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Sports Writer. Cover prep sports, Hot Rods baseball, Titans football, and is the Daily News staff film critic.

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