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The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It ★★★



Director: Michael Chaves

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sterling Jerins, Ruairi O’Connor, Julian Hilliard, Charlene Amoia

Released: 28th May 2021 in UK Cinemas

There is something quite calming about going through the world of demons and the macabre with Ed and Lorraine Warren. By now they feel like family to me and are a comfort blanket when I watch these movies. The Conjuring universe as we now call it is a mixed bag of pure horror and a few stinkers.

James Wan’s The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 have been shining examples of how horror can work in the modern-day, and their success was inevitably going to bring a third film to the big screen. Unfortunately, Wan hasn’t returned and has passed on the reigns to Michael Chaves, the director of The Curse of La Llorona. There has been some hesitance in the appointment, but could we be wrong in judging him?

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 (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga).  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’d ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defence.  

The true righteous soul of this film is the Warrens. In previous films, we have never dug deeper into their past or what binds them. It takes up a great deal of the film, and Chaves gets the best out of Farmiga and Wilson. As a trilogy, these tales are based on actual events, and this revolves around Arne Johnson, who killed a man and stated: “the devil made me do it”. Chaves doesn’t make this the focal point of the film at all. This is more of a haunting odyssey of discovery and reconnection. The Warren’s are facing a darker power, and they must play detective to get the answers.

While the narrative weaves in and out of Arne Johnson’s demonic debacle, many mystifying clues and subtle gestures lead the Warren’s to prove that this was demonic possession. The opening scene almost feels like a homage to Friedkin’s The Exorcist, and it settles you in for what this franchise is known for, scaring the crap out of the audience. Unfortunately, Chaves takes the focus away from the horror elements too frequently after the opening scene. It becomes more of a mystery thriller with a dusting of the horror we all love in the series.

It may sound as this is a misfire, but this detective element is where the story does shine. Trying to prove demonic possession in a court of law does require a lot of investigating, and this is what we get. The real hero here is the emotional core of Ed and Lorraine. Chaves channels deep with his tight framing and mood-inducing score generate a sentimental aura in an unholy environment. It’s undeniable that Farmiga and Wilson have a natural rapport with each other. They bring a lot of life into these stories, and without them, this could have quickly gone the wrong way.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is missing a bit of the James Wan unhinged magic and scares. Chaves delivers a film that is intriguing and genuinely more emotional than usual. The lack of horror might put you off, but perhaps the deeper horrifying meaning here is losing connection with the people we hold dear to us?

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