The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the third entry in the main Conjuring franchise from WB, and the eighth film from the "Conjuring Universe" overall. The first two films, which were directed by James Wan, are easily considered modern horror classics and helped spawn the franchise's many later spin-offs. This third entry of the main series, however, comes after a long five-year gap after the last film and does not have horror auteur Wan at the helm. Instead, the movie recruits The Curse of La Llorona's director Michael Chaves and longtime Conjuring collaborator David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick to bring this new story from the Warrens' case files to the big screen. With a changeup for the talent behind the screen also comes a fresh new approach and entirely different kind of story from the typical haunted house stories that this franchise helped to re-popularize, as the film tells the true story of Arne Johnson's unusual murder trial investigation from the perspective of the Warrens, who must prove that Arne is "not guilty by reason of demonic possession". Whereas in the first two films, where Ed and Lorraine Warren serve a slightly more supporting role, here Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Ed and Lorraine as the bona fide leads. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is undoubtedly the weakest entry of the main franchise - the intensity, style, and atmosphere that director James Wan lends to the first two films is clearly missing here. However, director Michael Chaves (whose critically panned Curse of La Llorona I actually quite enjoyed) shows enough horror craftsmanship chops to make this unusual Conjuring film work quite well. The secret ingredient of the first two films - their simmering suspense - is missing here, but nevertheless The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It shows that this long-running horror franchise still might have gas (and scares) left in the tank yet.
Performance-wise, it's hard to best Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson when they're at the top of their game, and the two excellent performers comfortably slip into their leading roles as Ed and Lorraine in this film. The Warrens are constantly onscreen here, and Wilson and Farmiga make the most of it, keeping up with the authenticity that made these characters feel so immediately familiar even in the first film. While the first two films' approach of keeping the Warrens mostly to the second half of the film likely works better, here the story requires Ed and Lorraine to be a part of the action, and Chaves fleshes out their leading roles by grounding the film in the story of their own romance and love. In fact, love is a theme interwoven throughout the film, espescially as the Warrens' relationship is sometimes paralleled in the relationship between Arne Johnson and his girlfriend.
When it comes to making old-fashioned haunted house films, it's hard to think of a franchise that does it better than The Conjuring - most of the films in the franchise/univerese tend to be rather contained, however, so it was always going to be interesting to see how the new film would pull off a larger story from the Warrens' case files, espescially with a relatively new talent behind the camera. What feels most missing in this new film is the masterful restraint that Wan displayed in directing the first two films, as both films made suspense and atmosphere the focus over jump scares. To some extent, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It does stick close to Wan's style, albeit to a lesser degree and there is a bit more focus on having a plethora of mostly well-executed jump scares. The more expansive story with the Warrens leading also causes The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to stray from the more traditional path of the franchise, although this comes as a refreshing change of pace, and while some parts of the movie are more tedious than others, this intriguing story makes for a unique spin on the franchise and its characters. The craft behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It may not be as polished as its predecessors or even the two previous Annabelle films, but this is still another solid, spooky story that should still manage to scare and satisfy fans new and old.
|Final Verdict:||The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is not as strong as its predecessors, but the uniquely intriguing story, mostly solid direction, and deft performances make it another worthy new entry in this franchise.|