The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is okay as a horror movie, but it is the weakest in The Conjuring series so far.
When you think of modern-day horror, The Conjuring easily comes into mind. The series is held in high regard as one of the best horror franchises of the 2010s. The first Conjuring movie in 2013 is considered a classic, and like all things that make money in Hollywood, the movie led the way for the CCU (Conjuring Cinematic Universe). Two mainline movies and five spinoffs later, the latest Conjuring movie is here with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
Unlike the last two Conjuring movies, James Wan is not in the director’s chair. Instead, it’s The Curse of La Llorona director Michael Chaves who is directing the third movie. This sequel had a lot of expectations to live up to given the quality of the last two movies, but sadly, it does not meet the hype. While by no means a bad movie, it is the weakest in the series due to its lack of effective scares and memorable characters.
Story With Potential But Little Payoff
Compared to the past two mainline movies, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It tries to mix things up with its story and setting which is admirable. This movie sees Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren investigate the demonic possession of Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), the first person in America to claim that he was possessed by the devil to commit murder in the court of law. Instead of the story and action mostly being held in a haunted house, the movie mixes things up with a variety of locations. The change of setting also allows for more than just haunted house hijinks such as detective investigation.
But the problem is that the movie does not use any of these changes to its advantage. There aren’t any trial scenes or scenes where Arne is in court defending himself ala The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Instead, it follows the Warrens as they try to investigate what happens. And while watching the Warrens investigate Satanic cults delivers some compelling scenes, it also does not fully commit to it. You aren’t going to be on the edge of your seat waiting to see what the next clue is. By the time the film reveals its big secret, it’s doubtful your mind will be blown.
Meh New Characters
As a viewer, you want to care for the victim. You want to sympathize and care for Arne since he’s on the verge of being put on death row. But Arne is not a character you can easily sympathize with. In the last two movies, we got to follow and understand the victims in those movies. The audience gets to learn about who these people are, their fears, weaknesses, and personalities.
But in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the movie devotes little time for the viewer to understand and care for Arne. The film does spend a few scenes, in the beginning, trying to show that Arne is someone who you should care for, but it’s too little. It would have been better if Arne had more character development. He does not come off as someone you hate or find annoying, but he also won’t be someone you will automatically want to root for.
The movie’s villain is also a character that lacks memorability which is a shame since the villain had the potential to be the next Annabelle or Valak. At first, this villain looks to be an extremely compelling figure, but once the villain’s aura is demystified, the villain just becomes another generic bad guy. There truly was potential for this villain to be a breakout character, but that does not happen. At the very least though, the movie’s villain does prove to be one of the most dangerous villains in the whole Conjuring universe. As a character, the villain is pretty bland, but as a threat, it’s up there in the series and gives the Warrens a real challenge.
The Warrens Remain Superior
With that being said, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga haven’t lost their magic. They still have great chemistry together and remain as one of the best protagonists in horror media. They absolutely carry this movie and are so much fun to watch onscreen. The film also fleshes out the relationship between the two of them even more and raises the stakes to make things more personal which makes you want to root for the Warrens more. Props to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, their backs must hurt from carrying the whole movie.
Still Scary, But With Diminishing Results
When it comes to horror movies, it’s forgivable (to a degree) if the movie has an ok plot and bland characters as long as it is scary. And while The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is scary, it falls in comparison to the series’ standards. You can feel James Wan’s absence from this movie because, in the past two, James would give interesting and well thought off scares. He really knew how to set up a good and unique jump scare.
But in this movie, most of the scares are easily telegraphed that you can tell that they are coming. If you are new to horror movies, the movie is scary. But if you are a fan of horror movies, especially of this series, it does not mostly do anything groundbreaking. There are some decent scares in this film, especially in the opening scene and one near the end, but the rest are mostly been-there-done-that.
Could Have Been Better
For fans of the Conjuring series, the good news is that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is better than the five spinoffs in the series (well maybe except for Anabelle Creation). The bad news is that it’s the ugly duckling in the main series so far. The Conjuring series is known to be a character-driven scare-fest. But this movie both lacks a compelling victim and jump-out-of-your-seat scares. If this were a standalone movie, it would be a good horror movie. But as a sequel in The Conjuring series where the bar has been set high, it does not reach the heights of the past movies. On paper, the movie had potential, but the end result is a bit of a mess. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It makes for a good Saturday night horror movie, but nothing more.
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