by @holocronJosh for @horrornecronom
Over the past eight years, The Conjuring Universe has proven that it’s possible to execute a successful cinematic universe outside of the MCU. And, amidst a slew of mixed spin-offs ranging from haunting and fun thrills like Annabelle: Creation and Annabelle Comes Home to the disappointing The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona, this franchise has always found its greatest successes in the core films. This time around James Wan takes a step back as director Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) helms the third Conjuring film. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It continues the journey of Ed and Lorraine Warren as they seek evidence to prove a young man was possessed while committing murder.
Like it’s predecessors, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It benefits from an excellent premise. A departure from the haunted house tales of The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, this film opens up with a wide range of intriguing directions for the plot to move to. Unfortunately, most of these opportunities are missed. The family dynamic was one of the understated selling points of the first Conjuring film, and there’s potential to do the same in this installment. However, as the film progresses, it loses focus and strays away from core family struggle, and the struggle of the accused man played by the underutilized Ruairi O’Connor. So much so that by the end of the film, it’s difficult to really care much about what’s going on with O’Connor’s character Arne as the movie had strayed away from him so heavily.
All of this would be tolerable if the film bolstered impressive scares, but, unfortunately, this is also not the case. James Wan’s deft hand at executing brilliantly crafted scare sequences is sorely missing here, making The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It by far the tamest of the franchise’s core films. Director Michael Chaves has a keen eye for framing shots and really capturing the era of the 1980s, but the unrelenting tension and menace of Wan’s films are absent here. The frights are serviceable, but anyone looking for sequences on par with the first two Conjuring films will be disappointed.
While The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It lacks in horror, it works as a mystery and investigation tale. In a poetic sense, The Conjuring heavily evokes The Exorcist, and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It feels more like The Exorcist III. The Warrens’ attempts to unravel the mystery are captivating and offset what the film lacks in focus and thrills. The mystery pans out somewhat flat, but it’s efforts to depart from the structure of previous films were commendable.
This third installment also benefits greatly from the leading performances of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga again. They are in large part what anchors this series and why so many of the spin-off films fail to capture the brilliance of the core Conjuring films. Ed and Lorraine feel so natural and comfortable together, a real testament to the work Wilson and Farmiga have put into these characters over the years. A b-plot in the film centers on a heart condition Ed has developed, although this angle is never really explored deeper than some huffs and puffs from Wilson’s character. That being said, the movie, especially in its latter third, does an excellent job showcasing the love Ed and Lorraine have for one another. At the end of the day, The Conjuring films have been as much about the Warrens as they have been about the demons they fight and, thankfully, The Devil Made Me Do It continues this tradition.
A steep decline from its predecessors, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It proves to be an unexpectedly tame installment in the successful franchise. Although the filmmakers fail to capitalize off of a captivating premise, the investigation plot and bond between Ed and Lorraine Warren do more than enough to compensate for the film’s shortcomings.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros and HBO Max