James Wan’s long but thoroughly rewarding sequel to the horror hit
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Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return in this excellent sequel to director James Wan’s The Conjuring. A huge horror smash back in 2013 which has already generated spin-offs like Annabelle, the new franchise covers the notorious Enfield Haunting in this entry. As infamous in England as the Amityville case was in America, the incident in Enfield, London concerned a poltergeist haunting an eleven-year-old girl and her family. The franchise is alive and well with this terrifying sequel.
Hands down, The Conjuring 2 is the scariest film seen this year. It takes everything that worked in the first movie with Ed and Lorraine Warren, convincingly played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, and delivers a more polished screenplay. The supernatural thriller’s atmospheric frights and terrifying scares are effective set pieces made by true horror fans, intended for other horror fans. Taking place in a squalid London of the late Seventies, it’s the perfect retro setting reminding fans of classic films like The Exorcist. The genre has often become stiflingly predictable in recent years with demographic-focused, cookie-cutter scripts.
The semblance of reality in The Conjuring 2 gives it an air of authenticity often lacking in horror movies. The fictional portrayals of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a real-life team of supernatural investigators before it was made cool by reality television, fully work as leading characters with intrinsic appeal. After a dark encounter with a demonic spirit in Amityville, the married demonologists are called on by the Church to unofficially investigate a possible haunting in Enfield, London. Feeling it’s their responsibility and duty, the Warrens travel from America for the investigation. The case has become a media circus in London with both the police and local investigators baffled.
Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children are apparently haunted by a disturbing poltergeist spirit in their home. Most of the poltergeist activity surrounds young Janet (Madison Wolfe) Hodgson. She is the focus through which the poltergeist attacks the family and guests. The Warrens will do everything in their power to save this girl and her family from demonic forces at work in the house.
Few know how to stage absolutely terrifying horror scenes like James Wan. His amazingly crafted sequences show a deft understanding of what makes a horror movie tick. The scariest scenes in this sequel drip with tension, slowly building up anticipation and suspense. Lorraine Warren repeatedly tangles with a creepy demon wearing a nun’s habit. This is one of the best-designed monsters we’ve seen in a long, long time. The movie does rely a little too much on CGI effects for its scares. There is another apparition in the film that looks ripped off from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Its appearance feels like something from a completely different horror movie.
The Enfield Haunting was ripe to be made into a Hollywood movie. Basically the British analog to the Amityville incident, Wan has successfully told its tale with a few embellishments for entertainment value. The Conjuring 2 likely won’t make any new genre fans, but should please all but the most demanding horror fiends. Running over two hours, it does become exhausting near the end in a wildly over-done finale. Having built up a taut, suspenseful tale of possession and pity for Janet, the climax is a jarring pyrotechnic explosion of effects and action.
So when does The Conjuring 3 open? I think everyone is hoping director James Wan returns with stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in tow.
The Arri Alexa production shows off its Hollywood pedigree in satisfactory picture quality. The 2.40:1 video is more concerned with frightening movie patrons than absolute sharpness and clarity. The color timing is darker with some desaturation in Enfield. WB didn’t go the extra mile on this transfer, the Blu-ray is fairly ordinary in resolution and definition for Blu-ray. Having missed The Conjuring 2 in theaters, I imagine its digital intermediate source didn’t look much better.
The main feature runs 133 minutes in AVC at adequate compression rates. Some minor artifacts appear scattered throughout the movie, largely in the form of minute banding and faint chroma noise. Black levels are purposely kept dark and play a critical role in the film’s best horror moments.
Some processing is evident in the form of aliasing. A few scenes have halos of some kind, possibly left over from shoddy composite work. Filtering is likely on some level. The disc’s ultimate resolution and detail are less than extraordinary in close-ups of Vera and Patrick.
Strictly viewed from a videophile perspective, The Conjuring 2 looks perfectly fine on Blu-ray. It is not demo material and represents a less pristine viewing experience than the original movie. Wan possibly embraced a softer aesthetic for mood this time.
The Conjuring 2 receives a near-reference Dolby Atmos surround experience. The default 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack for home theaters lacking Atmos sound is impressive, boasting thundering bass and densely packed audio cues. Objects swirl around the room as poltergeist activity gets going.
This is audio made for horror fans, intended to scare the stuff out of you. The haunting score is beautifully mixed in with flawlessly intelligible dialogue. Everything is heard in big dynamics with pristine clarity and strong directionality. You owe it to yourself to hear this track on a nice home theater system.
Optional English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles display in a white font. They remain inside the scope framing at all times. French, Portuguese, and Spanish dubs play in Dolby Digital 5.1. English Descriptive Audio is also included.
I strongly recommend watching these special features. These featurettes are way beyond the usual marketing fluff with standard cast and crew interviews. They include the actual Janet Hodgson and her sister from the original Enfield Haunting, now grown adults. I won’t ruin the surprise, but there is a touching reunion between them and someone else they haven’t seen in decades. It is missing a commentary, which would have made this a far stronger set of extras.
WB includes an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie, redeemable in HDX.
Crafting the Conjuring 2 (10:09 in HD) – On-set footage and behind-the-scenes material fill out this fairly interesting look into making the movie.
The Enfield Poltergeist (12:46 in HD) – Chilling recordings are played of the audio recorded in the 70s by the Warrens over this case. Janet and her sister recall living through the haunting as they visit the set. Cast and crew discuss their impact on the film.
Creating Crooked (06:44 in HD) – An in-depth look into the creation of the Crooked Man, a demon seen in the movie.
The Conjuring 2: Hollywood’s Haunted Stage (05:08 in HD) – A goofy featurette about the supposedly haunted set on WB’s lot.
The Sounds of Scary (07:00 in HD) – A fascinating featurette with composer Joseph Bishara recording part of the score at legendary Abbey Road Studio.
Deleted Scenes (06:31 in HD) – Mostly inconsequential material better left out of the movie.
Lights Out Trailer (02:25 in HD) – Plays before the main menu
UHD Experience Promo (01:05 in HD) – Plays before the main menu
Director James Wan finds a sharp tale of supernatural horror in the Conjuring 2, a sequel which becomes part of a growing franchise.
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Note: Due to new DRM standards, screen shots are not available for this release.