The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Horror Review)

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Horror Review)
7 10

PLOT: In one of their most chilling cases, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) try to prove the innocence of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), a young man who killed his landlord while, supposedly, in the throes of a brutal demonic possession.

REVIEW: In the press tour for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, all involved have described the Conjuring films as, essentially, Ed & Lorraine Warren fan-fiction. Real-life paranormal investigators, to some they’re legends, to others charlatans although it can’t be denied that some of the stories they’ve told over the years are compelling. Many folks want to believe this stuff, and it certainly makes for good popcorn fare judging from how The Conjuring has grown into a billion-dollar franchise for Warner Bros.

At this point, there are two kinds of Conjuring films - the real deal and the spin-offs (Annabelle, The Nun, etc). This is the third installment of the legit series, although director James Wan hasn’t returned in favor of kickstarting another horror franchise with WB’s Malignant. To fill in, he’s chosen Michael Chaves, who made the Conjuring Universe movie The Curse of La Llorona. While not up to par with the previous two Conjuring films, Chaves has made a solid addition to the franchise that should please hardcore fans of the saga.

The chief appeal of the film comes from the return of Wilson and Farmiga as the Warrens. It was always a treat to see these triple-A caliber actors dive into horror and they’ve always given the franchise a level of credibility it might not have had otherwise. They ground the movies because you can’t help but invest in the relationship between the Warrens, which, as always, is pure adoration (in real life things were more complicated).

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the movie is that Ed feels a little sidelined this time, with his character suffering from a heart attack early on that makes him more passive than he was in previous installments - for a while anyway. However, it does give the film of sense of danger with him being in such a fragile state, with Lorraine having to take the more physically active role this time. Wilson and Farmiga are top-notch as always and I doubt the movie would work nearly as well as it does without them.

That said, the scares in this one are a mixed bag. The movie starts with a kick-ass teaser, depicting an exorcism gone awry, with it climaxing in Ruairi O’Connor’s Arne taking possession of a demon to save his young brother-in-law’s life. It depicts the Warrens, arguably, messing up, with the whole thing going so wrong that it almost kills Ed and leaves Arne half-insane. It gives them extra motivation to try and save the now possessed Arne from jail, and O’Connor is likable if perhaps a little too clean-cut.

My issue is that the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to the jaw-dropping start. The intro is so good I was convinced this was going to be the best Conjuring movie ever, but nothing else in the movie comes close to living up to this set-piece. One of the things I always liked about the Wan films is how they didn’t rely on cheap scares, which is when things are quiet…quiet…quiet…SUDDENLY LOUD, etc. Cheap scares were for the spin-offs, but they’re pretty prominent here. That’s disappointing, as the film will work a whole lot better in theaters with a good sound system than at home on HBO Max, where the impact of these moments will be lessened considerably unless you have a monster sound set up.

The movie does, however, have a strong villain who I’m not going to spoil here, as it's a late movie reveal. The make-up effects are cool and the climax is solid. Once again Joseph Bishara contributes a creepy score to liven up the action, while it was fun seeing Fringe star John Noble show up in a small part.

All in all, I was somewhat disappointed by The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, just because the first two movies set the bar so high. That doesn’t make it a bad movie - in fact, it's more than decent. As far as the series goes, I’d rank it below the two Wan films but ahead of all of the spin-offs. And if you have the choice, see it in theaters. It’s a lot scarier on the big screen. In fact, while the movie is a 6/10 at home, on the big-screen it’s probably closer to a 7/10

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