The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Warner Bros Entertainment
Directed by Michael Chaves
Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (screenplay), James Wan (story)
2021, 112 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on May 26th 2021
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Ruari O' Connor as Arne Cheyenne Johnson
Sarah Catherine Hook as Debbie Glatzel
Who are Ed and Lorraine Warren? Supernatural heroes, or cynical scam-artists? Selfless paragons of virtue, or soulless grifters? Ed and Lorraine Warren are back and, with them, that old debate as to the couple’s true nature. The Conjuring franchise never has been interested in such navel-gazing though, taking the controversial pair at face value, and turning them into its heroes. And it’s worked – Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine are the heart of a cinematic universe, and the foundation of The Conjuring series. Annabelle, The Nun and the rest of the ghosts are great, but it’s the chemistry and heroism of the Warrens that really makes this franchise work. Just see Patrick Wilson and his guitar in The Conjuring 2, if you don’t believe me.
The Devil Made Me Do It tackles another famous Warren case – the Brookfield murder of 1981. Following in the aftermath of an exorcism gone awry, Ed and Lorraine try to prove the innocence of a young man (Ruari O’Connor) suspected of murder and facing the death penalty. As they investigate the cause of the boy’s possession, they begin to uncover something even more sinister, and even more insidious. Those expecting another haunted house slash demonic possession movie from the third Conjuring installment may be in for a surprise. This is more investigative thriller than viewers may be used to. Like Insidious: Last Key, it’s a departure from the format of previous movies, but keeps the style and tone.
Still, director Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) knows what the people want, and the film doesn’t skimp on the series’ trademark jump scares and macabre imagery. None of this film’s ghosts hold a candle to previous monsters Annabelle or the Nun, but its sequences of demonic possession and exorcisms-gone-wrong deliver on the goods. What it lacks in a proper haunted house, Chaves makes up for with handfuls of Satanic totems, spooky basements and hidden murder rooms.
Unlike the masterful Conjuring 2 (my favourite in the series, in case you hadn’t guessed), The Devil Made Me Do It is largely uninterested in developing the family Ed and Lorraine are there to help. Instead, it goes all the way back to the Warrens’ first date and throws everything else it has into the other (non-dead) humans they meet along the way. John Noble is barely in it, but makes an impact as a former priest and fellow expert on the occult. As the face of the film’s evil, Eugenie Bondourant is supremely creepy, and should have been in it a lot more. The devil's in the details, but Chaves and screenwriter Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick aren't particularly interested in those ones.
But there’s a reason why The Conjuring’s spin-offs have floundered where the main tentpoles have soared. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, that’s Ed and Lorraine Warren. Wilson and Farmiga’s chemistry once again carries the whole thing, even as the film struggles to find much to do with either of them. At this point, there’s no chance of either of them dying, so there’s not a whole lot of tension to the proceedings, even as Wilson does his best Jack Torrance impression (something he had a bit of practice with, back In the Tall Grass) and Farmiga teeters on the edge of a cliff, off her face on ghosts. Those who know anything at all about the ‘real’ Ed and Lorraine may balk at yet another rose-tinted depiction of the couple but, by now, should know what to expect from a Conjuring movie: conservative, Christian values triumphing against evil.
This third entry in the series is an efficient ghost story and murder mystery, but lacks depth. For all its noise and gnashing, it never really gets under the skin in the same way as its predecessors did; not the audience’s, not its characters’, and certainly not Ed or Lorraine Warren’s.
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