The third Conjuring film flirts with reinvention, but settles for formula

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | June 10, 2021

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
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2.5 out of 5

While The Conjuring saga benefits from good production values, unimpeachable craftsmanship and solid acting (all frequently missing from the horror genre), there’s an inherent flaw that diminishes the saga’s impact. We all know Ed and Lorraine Warren lived to a ripe old age. Putting them at risk for dramatic purposes doesn’t generate much tension. Plus, you’re not going to kill the heroes of a multi-million dollar franchise.

The third film in the series, The Devil Made Me Do It, seems aware of this problem, and for the first three-quarters unfolds like a supernatural procedural — a welcome respite from the “things that go bump in the night” approach. Towards the end, however, the movie loses its nerve and reverts to the tried-and-true haunted house formula.

The film opens with a child possession scenario (think The Exorcist on steroids). The demon is expelled, but finds a new host in Arne, a young man present during the procedure. Arne goes on to stab his landlord 22 times, but argues he wasn’t quite himself when plunging the knife into the victim. During the same exorcism, the demon gave Ed a heart attack. Despite being weakened, the Warrens set out prove Arne’s innocence.

Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) takes the director’s reins from James Wan, and it shows. Chaves’ strategy is meat-and-potatoes, and Wan’s flashiness is missed. The first two movies had a “weird” component that made them slightly less predictable. They were also better at drawing the supporting cast, and giving us someone to worry about. The creepy scenarios (waterbed, anyone?) and twisted bodies are still there — but no payoff of note.

As Ed and Lorraine, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have mastered the perpetually concerned look. But there’s not much to their performances. Sure, the Warren files are unlimited. But my interest is waning.