Blu-ray Review: The Conjuring 2

By , Contributor
The horror film The Conjuring, focused on the paranormal investigations by Ed and Lorraine Warren, was a true sleeper hit during the summer of 2013. In an age of loud, F/X-drenched blockbusters, director James Wan's chiller scored points for its relative minimalism. Atmosphere, music, strong performances, and clever staging all combined for a good, old-fashioned classic haunted house story. The inevitable sequel, The Conjuring 2, cracks open another of the real-life crackpot Warren's "case files." After the deeply uninspired spin-off Annabelle (spotlighting the creepy doll from the first film), there was reason to fear the worst for this sequel. Thankfully, James Wan is back and The Conjuring 2 (now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) is solidly entertaining.

No, it's not as sterling as its predecessor. But it delivers its fair share of scares, even if it carries on far too long at 134 minutes. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as Ed and Lorraine. For whatever reasons Wilson seems less invested this time around, though Farmiga winds up tapping the same vein of terror that made her original performance so satisfying. This time the Warrens are in London to investigate the so-called "Enfield Case" (basically another haunted house). Early on, they're actually investigating the Amityville murders (the same real-life tragedy that has been exploited before, notably in The Amityville Horror films). 
 
Conjuring 2 a.jpg Lorraine's encounter with an admittedly quite scary demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons) ties into the Enfield case later on. The dovetailing of these two very different cases is less than elegant, but the nun herself works so well she's getting her own Annabelle-style spinoff in 2017. The Hodgson family, residing in the London borough of Enfield, is experiencing a haunting similar to what the Perron family went through in the first Conjuring. Though Lorraine is spooked by the nun encounter back home (not the last she will have), plus her terrifying premonition of Ed's death, the couple goes to London to do what they do best.

Just as the first Conjuring was carried by great performances by young actresses (including Joey King and Mackenzie Foy), The Conjuring 2 is also buoyed by the strength of its young supporting cast. No one is better here than Madison Wolfe as young Janet Hodgson, the possessed girl who the Warrens must save. These possession/exorcism/haunting films really need a sympathetic protagonist to make a true connection with the audience, and Wolfe nails it with a realistically traumatized portrayal. Even though the demonic nun feels like it's from a different movie (probably only included to make Conjuring 2 feel less like a remake of the first film than it already does), there's solid craft behind Wan's sequel.

Warner Bros.' Blu-ray presentation is satisfying, with Don Burgess' cinematography looking great no matter how atmospherically dark the lighting. If you're Dolby Atmos-quipped, you're in luck with this disc. If not, you'll default to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 which provides all the chilling "what was that?" directional audio effects you could want. I don't know what I'm missing, since I'm not Atmos-ready, but the surround mix sure does the scary trick on a late night. Much credit to composer Joseph Bishara, who also scored the first film, for his often spine-tingling music. 
 
rsz_conjuring_2_bd.jpg For special features, Warner delivers several featurettes and a short selection of deleted scenes. Even though I don't believe an once of the paranormal bull served up by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the best featurette is "The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror" (12 minutes) which includes interviews with real-life Hodgson sisters, Janet and Margaret. "Crafting The Conjuring 2" (10 minutes) is a pretty standard, glossy 'making of' material. "Creating Crooked" (seven minutes) is a pretty fascinating little piece about, just as the title suggests, the creation of the Crooked Man character who haunts the Hodgsons (portrayed by Javier Botet). Also worth a look is "The Sounds of Scare" (seven minutes) which gives some love to aforementioned composer Bishara. "The Conjuring 2: Hollywood's Haunted Stage" is another bit of amusing paranormal nonsense, this time focused on the supposedly "haunted" set.

For such a sizable hit ($319 million worldwide), The Conjuring 2 feels kind of offhanded as a Blu-ray package. There's no slipcase and (though there is an UltraViolet Digital HD copy) no standard DVD. But at least the tech specs are great, the featurettes are well produced, and the film itself (though inferior to the original) is an unusually strong horror sequel.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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