Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 52 minutes, Director – Michael Chaves
The Warrens (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) try to prove that a young man (Ruairi O’Connor) accused of murder was possessed by the devil.
The devil made me do it is an excuse that for some people might simply call back to Bart Simpson’s fame-leading “I didn’t do it”. However, it’s (close to) a genuine claim made in a US court in the early 80’s, when a young man said that he was possessed by the devil when accused of murder. This leads the Warrens (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) to investigate before Arne Cheyenne-Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) is sent to prison, and possibly given the death sentence, for murder. There’s a race against time brought into this latest instalment into the Conjuring franchise, playing more dramatic or light-thriller related territory than horror. Of course, the traditional Conjuring jump scares are present, you can certainly tick of quiet, quiet, bang. But, this addition to the series – and third in the main line of Conjuring films – ticks off less of the boxes in Horror Movie Cliché Bingo than a handful of the other entries.
For the most part we focus on the the Warrens. The film takes time to explore their relationship, and the bond formed around their investigations into the supernatural and occult. While this mostly comes in the third act and in the final stages of the film for the film certainly focuses more on their relationship than previous entries may have done. All as they find themselves delving into a dark world beyond the normal possessions and hauntings that they’ve seen before. It’s perhaps these scenes of investigation and research that form the main source of engagement with the film. It certainly creates some interest within the characters and helps form a plot not overly reliant on weak scares. However, this does also cause the horror-leaning scenes to have little impact, the scares are for the most part fairly predictable and ineffective; as they commonly have been with this particular series.
Throughout director Michael Chaves (returning after one of the weakest entries into the series, The Curse Of La Llorona), alongside screenwriter David Leslie Gordon-McEldrick, seemingly pay homage to a number of classic films. It’s hard to not see in certain shots, and indeed scenes, references to The Exorcist and A Nightmare On Elm Street, although similarities can sometimes prove a bit much if they linger for too long. There’s also plenty here for fans of this franchise, of course the continuation of the Warrens is present, and the standard style of horror, but there’s also plenty of references – this wouldn’t be a Conjuring film without a reference to Anabelle, would it?
There’s plenty here to please fans of the franchise, of which there are clearly many, and perhaps even casual viewers too. The focus on the Warrens – Wilson and Farmiga both giving good performances – certainly adds something and allows for the plot to be followed with some ease, also preventing the film from feeling overly busy. It seems almost more restrained when compared to the previous entry in the main Conjuring trilogy – especially when it comes to the ending, a reveal with little impact is better than something over the top – and makes for something that’s easier to engage with and that certainly works well enough for most of its run-time. In many ways it’s testament to Ed and Lorraine as characters, how invested the writers and creators of the franchise are with them as characters – and of course Wilson and Farmiga are too. This click makes this latest entry into the Conjuring universe that bit more interesting, preventing it from simply coming across as cheap and lacking in scares.
By focusing more on the Warrens as characters The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It forms a more interesting, engaging storyline compared to previous entries in the franchise, and distracts from the mostly ineffective jump scares.