James Jay Edwards

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Is Just Another Conjuring-Verse Movie

(The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

James Jay Edwards reviews The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, a supernatural horror film directed by Michael Chaves, starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. (Warner Bros. Pictures

 

On paper, it looks like a great pandemic bounceback year for the franchises of writer/director/producer James Wan. A few weeks back, the long-awaited Spiral: From the Book of Saw was finally released. This week, the equally long-awaited The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It hits screens.

Set in the early eighties, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It begins with the exorcism of an 8-year-old boy. The procedure is effective, but the demonic presence transfers itself into the body of a young man named Arne Johnson (Teen Spirit’s Ruairi O’Connor). When Arne kills his landlord, he is, of course, arrested and charged with murder. It is then up to famous parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Watchmen’s Patrick Wilson and Running Scared’s Vera Farmiga, both reprising their series roles), who assisted during the original exorcism, to prove that Arne is “not guilty by reason of demonic possession.”

Yeah, that’s the plot of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. And the movie is better than its synopsis makes it sound. But it still isn’t as good as either of its predecessors.

 

(The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, theatrical release poster, courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

Like the other The Conjuring movies (and most of the rest of the “Conjuring-verse” spinoffs), The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is based on a true story, adapted from the case files of the real Ed and Lorraine Warren. The movie’s plot takes several liberties with the actual facts of the case, but hey, that’s Hollywood. The story was written by Wan, who handed it over to screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (who also worked with Wan on Aquaman and The Conjuring 2) to flesh out the script.

Unfortunately, Wan does not direct this outing, instead turning the reins over to Michael Chaves, who helmed the Conjuring-verse movie The Curse of la Llorona. Chaves is a competent director, but he’s no James Wan, and his style in The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 is inimitable. That doesn’t stop Chaves from trying, and while some of the creepier, more suspenseful scenes are effective, most of the scares are not. Which would be fine if The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was a police procedural or a courtroom drama (it’s neither). But it’s still trying to be a horror movie. It’s just one without much bite.

 

(The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

The presence of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens helps the film out a lot. The two actors provide a likable screen presence, and that gets the audience on their side, even if the movie’s stakes seem tamely low and the thrills come across as ripples instead of waves. By now, audiences accept Wilson and Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine, and as long as they’re around, these The Conjuring movies will be worth watching, no matter how far off the rails they go.

And The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It does go pretty far off the rails in the third act. Much like how the other two The Conjuring movies do. But this one gets even more far-fetched and crazy. This is where Wan, Johnson-McGoldrick, and Chaves steer clear of the “true story” angle and just have fun with camera tricks and noise bursts (the latter of which includes another freaky, screechy-and-squealy score from Conjuring-verse house composer Joseph Bishara). All things considered, however, the climax does beat watching a courthouse come up with a verdict on an accused murderer. So, at least Wan and company know their audience.

 

(The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

And that audience pretty much knows them, along with what to expect from these movies. Actual The Conjuring movies should be the tentpoles of the Conjuring-verse series, but The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It doesn’t feel like one. It’s just another Conjuring-verse movie. It may be better than the average modern fright flick, but it still isn’t as good as it should have (and could have) been.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is now playing in select theaters and on HBO Max.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

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