Review: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

By Christian DiMartino

Did you know that James Wan currently has three ongoing horror franchises? What’s interesting about this fact is that Wan doesn’t really have direct involvement with any of them at this point in time, yet these studios see an opportunity to milk the cash cow as long as they can. Wan’s first film, Saw, just had its EIGHTH sequel, Spiral (Wan only made the first film). Wan’s Insidious, believe it or not, has a 5th movie on the way (Wan only made the first two). Yet arguably his best film, 2013’s The Conjuring, has since developed its own cinematic universe of the sorts, and despite directing The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, the two best, he has stepped out of the director’s chair for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Let’s just say, his touch is surely missed.

What worked about The Conjuring, and even The Conjuring 2, was that Wan had the ability to tell compelling ghost stories that felt, to a degree, believable. The second film less so, if only because there are instances where Wan introduces these boogeymen that feel somewhat designed for their own spin-off. Yet both films were effective and chilling. As for the rest, Annabelle received its own trilogy, with the second film being effectively creepy, and the other two feeling like a Goosebumps episode; The Nun is one of the more laughable horror films in some time, and I guess The Curse of La Llorna is in this universe too, despite not being mentioned in any of the others. Wan’s Conjuring films work; the rest are a bit silly.

Well folks, The Conjuring series has caught the silly, too. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, marketed as a film “Based on the True Story” (more like “based on the true concept,” because true story my foot) is lurid and absolutely ridiculous, not to mention, a film that has unfortunately succumbed to the corporate vibe of its spin-offs. Having said that, the film is ludicrously entertaining, and so absurd that I couldn’t help but be entertained by the whole thing. It’s not necessarily good, and it’s pretty close to a wheeze, but it tells an interesting (oh yes, and very true) story that holds your attention until something completely goofy occurs. It’s something of a guilty pleasure.

Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) return, and one thing occurred to me this time: if all of this really happened to these two people, how are they not mentally scarred, and why wasn’t this news national? Well, here’s the thing: some of the story in The Conjuring 3 (not typing that again, and it’s a goofy title anyways) is indeed true, but the details surrounding it, well, aren’t. The film opens with the Warrens assisting in the exorcism of a young boy named David Glatzel (Julian Hillard). Surrounded by his family (though nobody watches him as he sleeps, probably not the smartest move), David’s body starts doing all kinds of whacky things that even a gymnast wouldn’t dream of, and he starts spouting the usual possession talk. In the midst of this, David’s sister’s boyfriend, a fella named Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), grabs David and the demon and begs the demon to take him instead. Bada bing, bada boom, the demon leaves David. All would be well, except Ed learns that working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack, and he is soon hospitalized.

We see a bit of the backstory on how these two cuties fell in love, and as this is happening, something is certainly afoot with Arne. Everyone around him seems to forget that he volunteered as tribute, and he begins seeing all sorts of strange things. This leads to the unexpected murder of his landlord, and the arrest of Arne. So, this part of the story is indeed true. Arne did indeed volunteer his body, murder his landlord, and he did plea that the devil made him do it. So the Warren’s, aware of the truth, set out to prove his innocence. The quest for Arne’s justice, however, is where things take a turn for the absurd.

The film is directed by Michael Chaves, and I’ll admit that he does do a solid job with building tension. I’m not sure what it is about these movies that keep people coming back, because we all know the routine: person is alone in a room, something catches their attention, said person searches for whatever they saw… the room is completely silent as we wait for whatever is about to jump out… and it jumps out. This film is currently streaming on HBO Max free for a month, but I chose to see it in a theatre not because I knew I was in for something special, but because this is the sort of movie that should be experienced in a theatre. Obnoxious as jump scares might be, I’ll be damned if they don’t always get me, and this time, they did again.

The original story behind The Conjuring 3 is pretty compelling. The story of The Conjuring 3 is also pretty compelling, but the filmmaker’s notion that this is Based on the True Story is a hoot; this is about as true of a story as Dylan Farrow’s (enter the cancel police). Amongst their quest for justice, the Warren’s also find themselves in the midst of the disappearance of two girls, and Lorraine, being a clairvoyant, is able to channel the spirit of one of the girls, and is able to reenact the murder of one of them. Lorraine, I feel, would be very well suited to the X-Men.

Their quest for justice also involves being attacked by a fat, naked, dead man. Twice. They really go all in on this fat naked dead man (he has long flowing black hair too). This character, I imagine, will be turned into a spin-off too… he looks like a Buzz. Yeah, Buzz, that’ll certainly strike fear into our hearts. They also discover that the entity behind this isn’t exactly the devil, but a dead clergy woman out for revenge for… some reason. She looks like an Olga. No, Helga. Anyways, I’m sure that Ingrid will get her own spin-off too, and we’ll call it, Hilda’s Revenge.

So to call The Conjuring 3 a good movie would be a stretch, but it also is far from a boring one. It passes the time well, and it’s not without its merits. It entertains, it has its moments of horror movie dread, it has a surprisingly good soundtrack, and some good performances. It also leads to a nice conclusion that solidifies the fact that Farmiga and Wilson are utterly adorable. You have to wonder if, when they made The Conjuring all those years ago, they knew they’d still be playing these roles nearly 10 years later. Frankly, I’m glad they are, because while these two actors are overqualified for this material, there is also no denying that they work wonders together. Remember that really sweet moment in The Conjuring 2 when Ed serenaded Lorraine (and us) with Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love?” Cute.

But yeah, anyways. The Conjuring 3 is the weakest of the Conjuring films, but it’s no less interesting. It’s just interesting in completely ludicrous ways. It’s as if the filmmakers had the original concept, and for whatever blanks there were in-between, they filled them with Buzz the fat naked dead man and Blanche the clergy woman from hell or something. How the Warren’s don’t have PTSD after all of these adventures is beyond me. I would’ve had the heart attack after the first film.

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