The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Movie Review
In The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, we learn that demonic possession is a legal defense strategy, that girlfriends are allowed to stay overnight in prisons to comfort their allegedly possessed homicidal beau, and that James Wan is a terrific horror director (note, we re-learn that last part because this is the first Conjuring movie to not be directed by James Wan). Lacking the same scares and edge-of-your-seat suspense as its two direct predecessors and more than a couple of the franchise’s spin-offs, this third entry is a mildly entertaining but ultimately disappointing affair that maybe is worth watching on HBO Max, but certainly not the cash or time to see it in theaters.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson reprise their roles as Lorraine and Ed Warren, this time going the Law & Order route by attempting to prove that a young man arrested and clearly responsible for the brutal murder of another man was possessed by a demon via a witch’s curse. It’s a defense that works well in the court of law, so I don’t see a problem here.
The first two The Conjuring movies are effectively frightening flicks, arguably two of the best horror movies of the last decade—especially as mainstream horror goes. Those movies, as well as their offspring (such as the Annabelle movies), under the direction or guidance of James Wan, tapped into a seemingly perfect formula: before getting to the overt scares, spend 90 minutes letting the audience freak itself out first. Wan accomplished this through slow, steady, and always moving cinematography combined with effective use of sound and “little” moments designed to make your own mind produce its own terror. Wan could spend minutes slowly drifting through a home, every camera movement giving way to a possible fright but often not. And that was the trick: every turn could leave you breathless and sweating, whether something happens on screen or not.
New director Michael Chaves abandons this perfect formula, or does a piss-poor job of executing it. While Chaves may have a good horror movie yet to be made in his future, it’s somewhat surprising that Warner Bros. gave Chaves the reins to its golden horror franchise given that the director’s only other feature-length horror film was the awful The Curse of La Llorona. The Conjuring 3 is a significant step up, but the movie fails to capture the same atmospheric terror other films in the franchise have emulated, largely because Chaves appears to lack the patience to do what worked in the past. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It isn’t without its scary moments, but it certainly is lacking a good number of them, and it’s hard to point to a single sequence in the film that really, effectively makes you want to cover your eyes, let alone look down at your lap.
It’s biggest problem may be its story, or the overbearing nature of the story. The Conjuring 3 spends too much of its time having the Warrens traipsing around looking for evidence, and the living person who appears to be responsible for everything that has gone bad. It’s not a bad redirection for the franchise (vs. doing another exorcism-centric storyline), except Chaves and crew lose sight of what really matters: scaring the crap out of the people watching the movie. The story takes up too much time, leaving much less time for the horror to unfold in the way fans of The Conjuring universe expect, want, and need.
The villain (played by Eugenie Bondurant), by the way, could have been a menacing force to be dealt with, but instead is just a poorly developed women with a serious case of RBF (Resting Bitch Face) and a hankering for casting curses. Terror is one thing she does not instill, though to no fault of the actress who plays her.
The movie also has just a few too many logic gaps—such as the aforementioned girlfriend suddenly hanging out in a high-security prison overnight—that hint at corners cut and screenplay defects not worked through before production began.
Not a complete waste by any means, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a noticeable step down from its predecessors in terms of quality, intelligence, and most importantly scares. The Devil says don’t waste your time.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.