June 4th, 2021
MOVIE: THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT
STARRING: PATRICK WILSON, VERA FARMIGA, SARAH CATHERINE HOOK
DIRECTED BY: MICHAEL CHAVES
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
When James Wan made 2013’s The Conjuring, I’m not sure there was an idea that it would turn into a full-fledged universe, fitted with great scares, spinoffs and memorable characters. Now we get the eighth installment into the universe of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, based on the real life ghost whisperers, and their various stories of ridding the world of demonic possession. It’s not expected for the horror collection to stay on a high- the first and second Conjuring’s are awesome- but with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, there’s an attempt to send the series in a different direction, and director Michael Chaves loses our attention along the way. Wilson and Farmiga are back as their charming selves, but The Devil Made Me Do It is lacking in focus and scares.
Similar to the previous two, the story begins with Ed and Lorraine working with the Glatzel family, with hopes they rid young David (Julian Hilliard) of a demon. The lights are off, the candles are lit, and a priest has been called in to begin the exorcism process. It results in a tense opening, featuring visions of blood pouring out of a shower, David’s body twisting in a knot, and his parents breaking doors down. During the fight with the demon, David’s sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook) and boyfriend Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) help hold David down. It leads to Arne telling the beast to take him instead of the boy and the entity willingly obliges. For a brief moment, the devil is suppressed, but it leads to Arne murdering his landlord days later. This puts the Warren’s on the trail to figure out who sent this evil spirit and help in convincing the defense that it really was the devil that made Arne do it.
One of the more confusing failures of this Conjuring is that Wan wrote the story with the screenplay written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and a majority of all the film’s problems arrive from too much going on. It’s not that Farmiga and Wilson are not good, in fact the duo are always charming, even when possessed dead bodies in a morgue are chasing them. This Conjuring seems to take a cue from murder mysteries mixed with the elements of dark spirits. In the history of horror it seems closer to movies such as The Exorcist III or The Changeling, but it’s unfortunately not nearly as good as those two.
The initial narrative about the demon inside the boy fits to the first two Conjuring’s. That works. Then it shifts to Arne’s possession, his trial, and how the Warren’s can help give his defense. From there they step into another discovery, that an artifact was under the house of the Glatzel’s, which sends the Warren’s across country to Massachusetts to look into another murder. It’s not surprising that this murder was similar to what Arne committed. It’s here when it begins to feel like a TNT episode of Bones or one of the various CSI shows. The narrative bounces around too much, while still trying to focus in on the Warren family’s own personal struggles. Lorraine still has visions that may be connected to the spirits, while Ed is dealing with an exorcism induced heart condition. What’s being forgotten about through it all is how to scare the audience. That’s The Devil Made Me Do It’s biggest sin.
The longer I think about it, the more disappointed I am with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. What can be highlighted is the surprising dashes of humor that Chaves seems interested in capturing, which adds a bit of levity to a series that deals more with trauma than anything. Is the Conjuring series dead with this one? Not necessarily as the tonal shifts may have jarred me and I’ll need to give it another look in the future. For now The Devil Made Me Do It is a misfire. The final result can be blamed on everyone collectively, but then again, the devil is always in the details.
THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT IS IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY JUNE 4TH
Written by: Leo Brady