If you’re as into the horror genre as I am, then you know all about real-life supernatural investigators and demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose “Amityville Horror” case made headlines back in the 1970s. But it took The Conjuring franchise creator and director James Wan to bring their stories from their POV to the big screen and mass audiences. To say The Conjuring universe films (eight in all) are popular would be an understatement.
So, how does the long-awaited third installment of the Warren saga stack up? It’s at a disadvantage because Wan is not in the director’s chair—the reins have been handed to the more workmanlike Michael Chaves (The Curse of la Llorona)—and two of the main characters are relegated to hospital beds much of the time. However, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a well-made, slick-looking, and fast-paced horror flick with plenty of demonic action, so overall, it delivers.
The story kicks into high, hellish gear right away with its opening sequence. It’s an homage to The Exorcist for sure, but the setup stands on its own two cloven hooves when the Devil shows up in the form of 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). The presiding priest (Steve Coulter) does what he can to save the kid from going full-Regan, and The Warrens hold onto their hats during the malevolent melee. Still, it’s David’s older sister’s boyfriend, Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who winds up saving the day. Arne invites the entity to take him instead, and that’s where the meat comes in.
In keeping with tradition, this Conjuring movie is based on one of the real-life cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga). They, along with Johnson, made headlines in the early 1980s at a murder trial in which the defense was, literally, “the devil made me do it.” You see, after Arne took the evil into his own soul, he killed his landlord. The brutal stabbing is choreographed to Blondie’s hit Call Me playing on the hi-fi in the film. As I mentioned, The Devil Made Me Do It is a slick flick—it looks and sounds great. In addition to the oldies, Conjuring veteran Joseph Bishara’s score sings throughout and is punctuated by shrewd stretches of silence.
Farmiga and Wilson have always had chemistry as the paranormal power couple, and it’s still going strong here, even though their dynamic has changed somewhat due to Ed being sidelined following the severe heart attack he suffered during David’s exorcism. Lorraine takes center stage, and in addition to being in more physical peril, she’s also at greater risk when it comes to tapping into her psychic powers. A few sappy, soft-focus flashbacks involve the couple’s blossoming romance, but they don’t detract too much from the horror.
The rest of the cast is great, too. Especially O’Connor as the besieged defendant, and Fringe’s John Noble as a former priest who knows more about the source of the supernatural shenanigans than he lets on.
Without Wan’s masterfully teased-out suspense sequences, The Devil Made Me Do It feels a bit formulaic and more reliant on showing us the monsters. But that’s okay—it delivers on its promise of Satanic scares juxtaposed with human drama. It may not be the best installment in The Conjuring universe, but anyone who loves horror will get their money’s worth just the same.
THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT WILL BE IN SELECT THEATERS AND HBO MAX JUNE 4, 2021