Blu-Ray Review: “The Conjuring 2″
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Street Date: September 13th 2016
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, Dolby Atmos 5.1 Audio
Runtime: 134 Minutes
In 2013, Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) released The Conjuring; a movie that I would venture to say is one of the better Horror films of the past decade. Based on the true story behind the Perron family’s terrifying haunting of their Rhode Island farmhouse in 1971, the film focused on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s efforts to rid the house of the demonic presence of the witch Bathsheba. Wan’s film wasn’t just scary, it was terrifying, and his stylistic choices truly made the film feel like it was cut straight from the 1970’s horror cinema scene. Everything from the period-costume design, the creepy score, and even the opening titles and font choices echoed classics like The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. But the true heart of the film was the relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively), which showcased a marital bond strong enough to overcome evil in the name of helping others.
In The Conjuring 2, Ed and Lorraine Warren are summoned to the Hodgson residence in the Enfield borough of London, England to investigate claims that the house is haunted. The Catholic Church, working alongside Ed and Lorraine, need verification that the claims are not a hoax in order to become involved in the matter. At first Lorraine refuses, having suffered a terrible vision of Ed’s death while attempting to contact an evil spirit at the DeFeo house in Amityville, New York (YES, that Amityville house, which serves as the opening sequence of this sequel). Ed soon convinces her that no matter the circumstances or risks involved, they are meant to serve those in need, and perhaps her premonition can be avoided.
Just as soon as the Warrens arrive in Enfield, they meet the Hodgson family including the young and seemingly possessed Janet (Madison Wolfe), her mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor), and her sister Margaret (Lauren Esposito). Janet has been disappearing from her bedroom at night, levitating in the air, and speaking in a voice that is not her own. Both girls have experienced their beds being shaken by something malevolent, strange knocking on their doors in the middle of the night, and furniture moving on it’s own across the room. In perhaps the creepiest note, there appears to be an old man present in the house who clearly wants them to leave. Even the local police have witnessed some of these occurrences. Ed and Lorraine remain committed to the family, even when the hauntings themselves are questioned by the locals as “convenient” and possible attention-seeking behavior from the mother. As both suspicion and the increasingly strange occurrences continue to mount, Ed and Lorraine begin to wonder if they’ve encountered this evil force once before.
The Conjuring 2 is a rare horror sequel that utilizes the strengths of the original while still standing on it’s own as a stylish, scary, and deeply emotional film. James Wan has crafted a cinematic experience that manages to both terrify and emotionally move the viewer. It’s important to note that you don’t have to believe in the real story behind the Enfield terror to be captivated by this film. I’ve personally researched just about everything Ed and Lorraine Warren have investigated that’s on record, and after watching the original BBC interviews with the possessed girl (and her sister), it certainly appears at times that these girls might have been playing quite the extended joke on their family. That skepticism is actually one of the interesting narrative choices that Wan and his team have incorporated into this sequel. The possibility of a hoax is directly addressed and even worked into the plotline of the film in clever fashion. It’s not the real-life truth we’re after here; it’s the emotional and entertaining cinematic experience being offered to horror fans.
On a related note, if it’s blood and gore you’re after, look elsewhere. Much like its predecessor, The Conjuring 2 is welcomingly devoid of the red stuff and focuses its attention on genuinely creeping you out. The performances are genuine all around, with the highlight being newcomer Madison Wolfe, who is tremendous as Janet. Both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga build upon their efforts to humanize Ed and Lorraine for audiences who may have thought of them as frauds, and there are two particularly touching moments involving these two that stood out among the scares to continue to make us care about their marital and spiritual journeys. I look forward to more sequels from the case files of the Warrens, as both Conjuring entries have managed to entertain the classic horror enthusiast in me.
The Conjuring 2 looks stunning on Blu-Ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment! Filmed with the Arri Alexa camera, this high definition digital image offers up a very film-like look for the viewer, and there are moments of stunning detail and clarity throughout the film that left me consistently impressed throughout. For example, around the 82-minute mark when the Warren’s are discussing the Enfield case in a local pub, the period clothing that the cast members wear seems nearly tangible, with every fabric and design of Vera Farmiga’s white blouse and Patrick Wilson’s grey pullover sweater on full display. Individual hair strands and even pores on the actor’s faces come through with vivid clarity. Black levels are inky and solid, and this is especially important and impressive in the film’s more terrifying sequences with the demon nun Valak. The rather muted color palette looks authentic to the theatrical image and colors look period appropriate in line with the director’s intentions. I do wish Warner Bros. had also released the film on the new 4K UHD format, if only to take advantage of the high dynamic range on a movie like this, but with that being said, this is still a beautiful looking Blu-Ray disc!
The included Dolby Atmos 5.1 audio track is another absolute highlight of this release, offering up a frighteningly immersive home viewing experience with a dynamic multi-channel effort. Dialogue comes through clean and clear and background effects are nuanced and creepy, with some delightful cross-channel panning that made me jump more than a few times. Joseph Bishara’s score for the film establishes the chilling atmosphere from beginning to end, and there is some impressive power in both high and low frequency output here.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has given fans of The Conjuring 2 a nice selection of bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray edition. Here’s a list of what’s included:
- Crafting The Conjuring 2– This 10-minute featurette explores the making of the film with Director James Wan and other cast and crew. Wan discusses wanting to bring an element of “class” back to modern day Horror, and the technical crew discuss the unique ways of filming some of the movie’s more frightening scenes. Everything from location filming to the movie’s special effects is analyzed briefly. I was especially fascinated by the massive set built for the house and Wan’s insistence on minimal special effects and developing more practical ideas for complex scenes. For just over 10 minutes, this can be a little fluffy and quick with the information, but it’s a fine featurette that will please fans wanting to know a little more about the making of the film.
- The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror- This nearly 13-minute featurette has the actual Hodgson children (now adults of course) discussing their horrific real-life experience that the film is based upon. We also get some input from some paranormal historians aware of the case, Lorraine Warren, and even James Wan himself offering up tidbits of history associated with the Enfield terror. I would have loved for this featurette to be a bit longer and more detailed, but most fans will be pleased with the interviews provided, actual newspaper clippings, and real photos from the haunting.
- Creating Crooked- This nearly 7-minute featurette focuses on the “Crooked Man” from the film including conception of the character from the nursery rhyme in the film, the zoetrope device, the design of the suit, and most fascinating of all, the performance of Javier Botet. We even get to see some side-by-side storyboard designs with the actual final scenes. This is one of the better features provided on this release, and I hope the Crooked Man gets his own spin-off film.
- The Conjuring 2: Hollywood’s Haunted Stage- A 5-minute featurette with paranormal investigator Johnny Matook, who also happens to be a Warner Bros. security guard, as he gives us a tour of the supposedly “haunted” house stage that The Conjuring 2 was filmed on. This is a rather silly experience, and definitely the most useless of the bunch!
- The Sounds of Scary- A 7-minute featurette on the sounds and the score from the film with composer Joseph Bishara. This is an interesting piece for audiophiles interested in the crafting of a score for a Horror film.
- Deleted Scenes- Roughly 6 ½ minutes of deleted scenes are presented continuously here, with no chapter stops or titles included. A water line breaking in the basement, a brief scene of mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) changing shirts while hearing some creepy noises, Janet scared in her room and unwilling to come out, more bullying on the walk home from school, the Warrens interviewing Peggy about the disturbances in the living room, and the investigators discussing the possibly life-altering effects of a haunting with mother Peggy. Nothing too substantial here, and most scenes seem justly left on the cutting room floor.
This Blu-Ray release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features some frankly baffling packaging! The cover art forgoes the effective and creepy theatrical poster art for a production photo of Janet on the floor of her room with the crucifixes turning upside down. It’s a scary image for sure, and one of the scarier scenes from the film, but the theatrical poster art was much better! There is no slipcover included on this release, and fans of the series will likely remember the fantastic lenticular “clapping” slip that was included with the first film and be disappointed in that respect. A lenticular slipcover of the original theatrical poster art with a moving Valak in the background would have been most impressive! Oh well. The back of the case includes a brief plot synopsis, a list of some of the bonus features, and technical specifications. Inside you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc for the film and an Ultraviolet digital copy code insert. On the reverse of the insert is an advertisement for Warner’s 4K UHD titles, and it certainly made me wish that we had that format as an option. Unfortunately, the packaging is altogether fairly underwhelming.
The Conjuring 2 is a rare horror sequel that utilizes the strengths of the original while still standing on it’s own as a stylish, scary, and deeply emotional film. James Wan has managed to craft a cinematic experience that manages to both terrify and emotionally move the viewer, and the film remains one of my personal favorites of 2016 thus far! This Blu-Ray edition from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features stellar video and audio quality and a solid set of short, but entertaining bonus features. If there’s a negative to this release, it’s the underwhelming packaging and the lack of a 4K UHD option for customers. Nitpicks aside, The Conjuring 2 is a fantastic horror sequel and this Blu-ray edition comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.