Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It
(R / 1h 52m / New Line)
Overview: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It reveals a chilling story of terror, murder and unknown evil that shocked even experienced real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
One of the most sensational cases from their files, it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then takes them beyond anything they had ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.
Verdict: Although its title says otherwise, the latest Conjuring film is not the work of Satan. That would imply some deliciously evil malevolence – a truly unholy force that would be impressive in its unparalleled wickedness.
Instead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is merely the product of lazy, entirely mortal filmmakers who, having found themselves with an impressively lucrative no-frills franchise, recited a Hail Mary of dubious intent.
Technically the third film in the Conjuring series following real-life husband-and-wife demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren – but really the eighth film in an ever-expanding Conjuring-verse that features prequels and side-quels and spinoffs – The Devil Made Me Do It is a resolutely pedestrian kind of horror.
If you want nothing more than a few CRANK THE VOLUME jump-scares and some impressive occult-y set design, then this is your kind of Hell. For more discerning cinematic sinners – including those who were impressed by the moody first Conjuring and the kicky kitsch of its spinoff Annabelle Comes Home – here lies been-there-exorcised-that darkness.
Taking place a few years after the events of The Conjuring 2, in which Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) investigated a British poltergeist – with a quick stopover in Amityville – this new adventure finds the couple battling Satanists in 1980s Connecticut.
Based on an infamous murder trial in which the accused, a young man named Arne Johnson (Ruairi OConnor), claimed demonic possession as a defense, the film tracks the Warrens efforts to both prove the impossible and stop it from happening again.
By centering their story around a sensational legal case, director Michael Chaves (who made his debut with the drippy 2019 Conjuring-verse entry The Curse of la Llorona) and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick had the opportunity to tweak a genre that is so far been impermeable to horrors influences. But reinvention is not something that the filmmakers – nor franchise mastermind James Wan – are interested in.
Rather, The Conjuring 3 is another semi-spooky ghost hunt, complete with walking corpses, creepy priests, and so many allusions to past horror movies that you begin to wonder whether Chaves intended to tip his hat to, say, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4s waterbed scene or simply ripped it off unconsciously.
Fortunately, Wilson and Farmiga have now transcended slumming it to elevating it, and give much-needed fresh life to characters, and predicaments, that feel as ancient as the evil which Ed and Lorraine battle over and over.
And good on actor John Noble, too, for popping up and making the line, “A master Satanist is not an adversary to be taken lightly, sound like something that someone, somewhere, at some time, might actually say with a degree of seriousness.
Ultimately, there is no resisting the Conjuring-verses supernaturally profitable reign of terror. With two more spinoffs currently in development, it is clear that the producers prayers have been answered. But me, I am still agnostic!