Release Date(s)2016 (September 13, 2016)
Studio(s)Warner Home Video
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C
Unless you’re a horror fan who’s been living under a rock the last few years, The Conjuring was one of the best and most surprising horror hits to come along in quite some time. The brainchild of director James Wan, who was known mostly for the original Saw at the time, it was an accomplished horror film that, while not being totally perfect, was absolutely effective. After the spin-off Annabelle (which Wan co-produced), a sequel was inevitable as folks were ready for further adventures with real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Taking place five years after the first film, which involved the Warrens investigating events surrounding a haunted family in Rhode Island, the second film opens with them looking into the Amityville haunting in 1976. Now receiving detractors from a variety of different sources, most coming from the mainstream media, they become reluctant to continue with any further investigations, especially as it’s taking a toll on Lorraine. One year later on the other side of the Atlantic, a London-based single mother and her children begin experiencing a haunting, as well as the possession of one of the young girls. After some insistence, the Warrens travel there to examine the situation.
Being a fan of the original film, I was very excited for the release of The Conjuring 2, and while I believe that it’s not quite as compelling as the first film, it’s not one that should be overlooked completely. There are some very scary moments in the film that have a genuinely creep factory to them. Like the last film, it relies on good, old-fashioned atmosphere and visuals rather than solely jump scares to be terrifying. On the flipside, the story itself feels less relatable than the first. The relationship between Ed and Lorraine (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) is explored a little more this time around which, while it’s nice getting into their characters a bit more than we did previously, made the film feel less focused and more drawn apart than it probably should have. The events that are taking place on both sides of the world don’t really connect until the second act, one having no inkling of the other (aside from Lorraine’s flimsy telepathic vision of future events). To be fair, this is true of the original film, but there’s more of a separation here, if nothing else than by geography, that makes the story feel sliced down the middle a bit more, and not entirely cohesive. Despite that, there are some genuinely touching scenes amongst the chaos, including one of Ed singing and playing guitar to the Enfield family, that give the movie more of a human element than most horror films. You also truly feel the desperation of the mother, and of the kids, also something that’s a bit of a rarity.
While The Conjuring 2’s story is, at least for me, not quite as unified as its predecessor, it knocked it out of the park once again in terms of effectiveness and expanding upon the mythos, providing horror within a modern cinematic expanded universe. It’s still an effective piece of horror entertainment. You certainly get more bang for your buck this time around. The demon nun character Valak, in particular, seems to have grabbed a lot of audiences’ imaginations, and was even a major part of the advertising campaign; so much so that a spin-off movie all about it/her is in the works. Regardless, both The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 are still well-made, entertaining horror films.
The Conjuring 2’s Blu-ray presentation is virtually flawless. Shot with Arri Alexa cameras, the frame is soaking in visual information. The one thing to keep in mind though is that the movie is absolutely stylized, meaning that things like shadow details and skin tones can be uneven from scene to scene, but intentionally. It’s an extremely organic-looking presentation with extreme fine detail in every shot. The color palettes that differentiate the American and British scenes pop and are quite striking at times. Black levels are inky deep, and both brightness and contrast levels are perfect. There are no signs of digital enhancement, nor could I spot any major compression issues of any kind. Like I said, virtually flawless. The audio selection is much of the same. You get a total of five options: English Dolby Atmos (which comes through as a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track for those without the capabilities); English 5.1 Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio; and French, Spanish, and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. Whether you have the ability to play back Dolby Atmos or not, get ready for a top notch presentation in every respect. There are no flaws to be had here; perfect dialogue reproduction, sound effects, score, surround and low frequency activity, and ambience. It’s a totally immersive surround experience. There isn’t much more to it than that. It’s the best possible Blu-ray presentation that you could ask for. And for those who might need them, there are also subtitle options in English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The extras for this release, however, are a bit ho-hum, which are mainly EPK-type featurettes that last only about 10 minutes or less a piece, but it’s better than nothing at all I suppose. There are actually five featurettes to choose from (Crafting The Conjuring 2, The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror, Creating Crooked, The Conjuring 2: Hollywood’s Haunted Stage, and The Sounds of Scary); a set of 4 deleted scenes; and a paper insert with a Digital HD and Ultraviolet code. Missing entirely are the film’s trailers, TV spots, and other marketing materials. And I usually don’t take note of the packaging of a release unless there’s something special about it. In the case of The Conjuring 2, it’s a very cheap-looking release, at least compared to the release of the first film. That came in with a nice slipcase housing with a lenticular cover and a DVD copy of the movie, and this is merely a standard Blu-ray case with only the Blu-ray disc as an option. The latter I can understand as the gap between Blu-ray and DVD buyers continues to widen (or merely as an understandable cost-saving measure), but for a film as successful as this one was, perhaps something a little more special could have been cooked up for its aftermarket release, but I digress.
The bottom line here is that The Conjuring 2 is a worthy sequel to its predecessor. Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray release feels a bit on the cheap side and lacks a satisfying set of extras (as well as the general overall package), but the A/V presentation is sure to please everyone of every home video enthusiast caliber, novices and experts alike.
- Tim Salmons