Friday 4 June 2021

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

The Warrens return for another round of paranormal investigation in the third film in The Conjuring series, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This is actually the eighth overall entry in the wider Conjuring Universe, following spinoffs like Annabelle, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona. That last movie's director assumes directing duties for this one (taking over from James Wan), and his movie receives a simultaneous release in both theaters and on HBO Max this weekend.

The film has Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life husband and wife team of paranormal investigators. Set in 1981, the movie centers upon the infamous "the Devil made me do it" case, the first-ever US murder investigation in which the defendant had pleaded not guilty under the grounds of demonic possession.

So rather than have the Warrens go up against the ghosts in yet another haunted house, the film instead functions as a murder mystery. The murder in question was done by a young man named Arne Johnson, who had spontaneously stabbed another man to death. Convinced that he was acting under demonic influence, the Warrens must now work to find the evidence needed to convince the courtroom as well.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It takes the popular horror series into strange new territory. Unfortunately though, its chosen destination isn't one that was necessarily worth visiting to begin with. The movie lacks much of the spark that made those first two movies great, and I found that it relied too heavily on cheap jump scares that you could see coming a mile away.

The movie also wears its influences a little too openly on its sleeves, and one of the more recognizable ones was the 1973 classic, The Exorcist. Everything from the way certain shots were framed, to the way the set was lit during its climactic exorcism scene, mirrored that other film. But there is a thin line between paying homage to something and plain ripping it off, and it was not always clear what the filmmakers were going for in this particular case.

The movie's sole saving grace then comes from its two leads. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson once again prove to have great on-screen chemistry. But even more than that, their characters are given greater depth than ever before, reflecting the toll all the ghost hunting has had on them as individuals and as a couple. I'll always have a soft spot for Vera Farmiga, and both she and Patrick Wilson do their best to elevate what was essentially an uninteresting script.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the latest victim of the laws of diminishing returns. The movie runs on fumes for much of its runtime, before finally arriving at a fairly predictable conclusion. And while it might still do enough to please fans of the wider Conjuring Universe, it simply doesn't offer nearly as many thrills as the two movies that came before it

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