Friday, June 4, 2021

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It - Review

Third entries are difficult. Hell, horror sequels are near impossible, let alone a third entry. But The Conjuring franchise, at least the main two films, have been a benchmark in studio horror over the last decade. Logically, the third film will have a slightly better chance than most to be at least decent, if not great. That is until the captain of the ship, director James Wan, decides to take a backseat this go around, and let someone else steer the solid series straight into the jagged rocks named mediocrity.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga) take on one of the most sensational cases of their careers after a cop stumbles upon a dazed and bloodied young man walking down the road. Accused of murder, the suspect (Ruairi O’Connor) claims demonic possession as his defense, forcing the Warrens into a supernatural inquiry unlike anything they've ever seen before.

Without the reliable touch of James Wan, the core films of the Conjuring franchise are put in a difficult position. And the results on screen reflect that. Gone is the interesting story wrapped in a tension filled horror film, replaced by a dull ‘Sherlock Holmes’ style mystery. No more unseen, inhuman evils haunting a well-meaning family, no audiences would rather get an ill-defined satanist and a murder trial. Director Michael Chaves tries his best, but the shift in focus does not work for what the franchise has been in the past. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t good elements in the film still. Patrick Wilson remains a steady piece on the board, turning in another great performance as one half of demonologist duo. And Farmiga is excellent once more, reiterating just how easy this role is becoming for her. The two of them make any film at least a little compelling, and if they’re still attached to any future outings, it’d be hard to not get a little excited at the chance to watch them take on demons together again.

As for the actual horror, there’s not a ton to be found in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. There are some good visual scares, in particular the very Nightmare on Elm Street waterbed scene teased in the trailers, but nothing that instills the sense of dread or tension found in the first two films. A big part of the ineffectiveness of its scares lie in its inability to get you to care even a little about characters not named Ed or Lorraine. When you lose that, it’s hard to get invested in anything the film is going for and the whole endeavor suffers.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It joins most of the other entries in the franchise in mediocrity. Not awful by any means, but it’s just another forgettable horror film in a long line of forgettable horror films. If you enjoy the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren, it’s worth a watch, and at just under two hours it doesn’t take too much time, but otherwise it could definitely be skipped.

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