The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
- Emma Simmonds
- 26 May 2021
Familiar yet scary enough third instalment in the wildly successful horror series
The third entry in the supremely successful Conjuring series is the first not to be directed by its creator James Wan, who presided over the first two scary and critically well-respected instalments. Wan is also the co-creator of both the Saw and Insidious franchises, so his hold over the horror landscape is almost frightening. The director of the less admired The Curse of La Llorona (also part of the Conjuring Universe), Michael Chaves, takes over this time; he's working from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (and a story from Johnson-McGoldrick and Wan).
The film is once again based on one of the real cases delved into by husband-and-wife paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (played, as ever, by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson). At the outset, we see them involved in the exorcism of eight-year-old David Glatzel (strong work from WandaVision's Julian Hilliard, who also impressed in Greener Grass), during which his sister's boyfriend Arne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor) invites the demon to take him instead. When Ed suffers a heart attack, the Warrens are unable to prevent the possessed Arne from murdering his landlord. The Warrens then persuade Arne's defence attorney to enter a plea of 'not guilty by reason of demonic possession' and set about gathering the evidence to support this.
It's a potentially very interesting story but The Devil Made Me Do It takes big liberties with the facts, even if you are willing to suspend your disbelief in terms of the supernatural elements (the demonic possession plea was actually rejected by the judge, which is not shown here, although the press did have a field day with it). Engaging with the legal proceedings might have made for a more interesting movie – though it would have been hard to do so without becoming increasingly dishonest – as what unfolds often feels dispiritingly familiar.
It's sadly lacking in stand-out scenes and Chaves doesn't have Wan's gift for cultivating suspense, yet the film features enough scares and shudders to make it worth hunkering down in a nice dark cinema for, especially if you're a fan, and there's a certain ferocity to the possessions. A run-in with a water bed delivers something a bit different, albeit fairly silly, otherwise it's just more of the same. It is a real shame not to take the Warrens in a different direction this time.
Despite its dubious relationship to reality, the Conjuring 3 boasts a strong moral compass in other respects. As before, Farmiga and Wilson bring sincerity and weight to the material and an appealingly unwavering dynamic. It might feel a tad overearnest for more hardcore genre fanatics but the film's belief that love can withstand and overcome horror makes this a movie for romantics.
Available to watch in cinemas from Wed 26 May.