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The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/13/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/16/2016

Many times in the past we've discussed the secret to making a sequel -- If you can't make a better movie, make a bigger movie. Bring back elements of the first film, and then toss in more action, more stars, and, most likely, more money. That way, even if the audience doesn't have the same experience that they did with the previous installments, they won't feel as if they've wasted their time. Dawn of the Dead, The Empire Strikes Back, Pitch Perfect 2 -- the list of films which exemplify this go on and on. These movies typically aren't as good as the original, and we've come to accept this. But, what if there was a movie which followed this formula and the result was a superior film. What would we call this? We would call it The Conjuring 2.

The Conjuring introduced us to real-life ghost-hunters Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). These two deeply spiritual individuals have made it their mission to help families who are experiencing supernatural disturbances. As that first film ended, The Warrens were called to Amityville, New York to investigate a haunting. As The Conjuring 2 opens, they are indeed in the infamous "Amityville Horror" house, where Lorraine has a disturbing image involving a mysterious nun. Because of this, she asks Ed to turn down any future investigation requests. This hiatus is short-lived, as they are called to London to aid the Hodgson family. Teenager Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) first began to notice hearing strange noises in their row-house, and then things began to move around by themselves. The incidents escalated when she began to see and seemingly channel an old man named Bill. Ed and Lorraine begin to investigate this "Bill" person, as the violence of the events escalate. But, some other presence seems to be in the house.

I'm a huge fan of the Insidious series and I feel that James Wan and Leigh Whannell have revitalized the haunted house genre with these films. When it was announced that Wan would be helming 2013's The Conjuring, I was excited to hear that he would be expanding his horror universe. However, unlike seemingly everyone else, I was very disappointed in that film. The clapping hands gag aside (which was revealed in the trailer), the movie came across as very uneventful, as Wan seemed doggedly determined to stick with a "less is more" approach. For me, the result was a movie which throw every haunted house investigation cliche at us, and only contained one creepy scene. Considered the true air of dread which Wan was able to create in Insidious, this was a huge letdown.

With The Conjuring 2, Wan and Writers Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, and David Leslie Johnson have embraced the "make it bigger" approach and, for once, the results are quite positive. For starters, we actually get to see the ghosts on a regular basis here. There's no more of that "less is more" approach which weighed down the first film. This leads directly into the fact that there's more haunting action here. People levitate, furniture moves, and items are thrown about in multiple scenes which really helps to keep the film humming along. So much so that it never feels like it has a 134-minute running time. The investigation is much more straight-forward in this story. Ed and Lorraine simply enter the house and the amount of paranormal activity supersedes the need for gadgets to capture proof of the ghosts. For my money, this entry gets more mileage from the plight of the family. While the Perron Family was certainly down on its luck in the first film, I found that the tale of the single mother worked better.

Of course, The Conjuring 2 still has its problems. While there is plenty of action here, the story does limp along at times. While we get some backstory on the Hodgsons, it isn't a lot and we learn basically nothing about the characters who show up in the second half of the film. The biggest issue that I had with the movie was that when the ghost first reveals itself to Janet, it claims that she is in its house. But, for some reason, it takes quite some time for someone to do some research on who the previous occupant of the house was. And I wouldn't be a true Insidious fanatic if I didn't mention that while this film has some good jump scares, it doesn't come close to creating the truly creepy vibe found in Wan's other series. I would venture to guess that The Warrens have several more stories to be told and Wan and co. keep making bombastic movies, then I say bring them on.

The Conjuring 2 could have cut the singing scene on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. Wan is not afraid to let the image get dark, but it's never too dark and the action is always visible. The colors look good, most notably reds. The level of detail is very good and the depth is exceptionally good here, as the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track really shows off the sound design and mix here, as we get a myriad of stereo and surround effects. The track does a great job of highlighting sounds coming from off-screen and from behind us. The subwoofer is also effective, making every ghostly "thump" feel as if it's happening in the room with us.

The Conjuring 2 Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. "Crafting The Conjuring 2" (10 minutes) contains comments from Wan, other members of the creative team, and the cast, who discuss how this film differs from the first one and what they hoped to accomplish. We get to hear from the real Hodgson family in "The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror" (13 minutes), where they talk about their experiences. "Creating Crooked" (7 minutes) discusses the decision to include this character in the film and how it was accomplished with a real actor. "The Conjuring 2: Hollywood's Haunted Stage" (5 minutes) profile a psychic investigator who works on the Warner Bros. backlot. "The Sounds of Scary" (7 minutes) profiles Composer Joseph Bishara and shows him conducting the orchestra. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. Two of these are brand new and one illustrates how Janet was treated at school.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long