It’s not the movie you think it is…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing…
As the Conjuring universe has sprawled itself over a myriad of films ranging from pretty good to extremely mediocre; The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It falls slightly above the middle of the pack in what we can only hope is the last on screen tale of Ed and Lorraine Warren because while these heroes against the unknown still have plenty of heart the stories transition into the more palpable realm of satantic rituals forces it to lose some of its mystery and luster. It makes for a nice bow on this cinematic universe and hopefully not an excuse to stretch this out any more then it has to be.
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 and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and 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 defense.
With director Michael Chaves moving over from the uneven The Curse of La Llorona here to this main 3rd installment of the franchise, there’s no doubt that the visual tone of it all is still very much intact. Particularly in the opening sequences that are the perfect balance between owning its period but still being thrillingly gothic keeping us guessing at multiple turns. No one will ever be able to say that these movies don’t at least LOOK insidiously creepy from start to finish.
While the material of seeing the Warren’s delve into the world of satanic ritual and cults in order to prove demonic possession is certainly interesting, especially given how it allows us to see the Warren’s getting older and not quite as resolute to some of the challenges that lie before them like they used to be in the past. The script from screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick does allow the Warren’s to show some fatigue in their long fight against evil, but it’s also a little too overloaded with the procedural elements of the story to make us care. There’s nothing wrong with anything in the script really, but the pacing is a little uneven and occasionally a little chaotic as it’s not 100% sure to be focusing on the Warren’s and the rabbit hold of evil they keeping investigating down or with the job of proving that a young boy was possessed while he committed murder.
We’ll grant that both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are still very much up to the task of filling the iconic shoes of Ed and Lorraine Warren but this is the first time in the series that they’re parts of this journey into evil and the unknown kind of got left by the wayside in favor of some stylish set pieces and action filled moments. We only get forced glimpses of what make these two tick and their devotion to each other over all these years and while some people may not want more of that, it’s really one of the aspects of all The Conjuring films that this critic has found truly interesting. The lack of character development isn’t so much of a mistake more than it is a missed opportunity as I would have loved to have known more, not just about the Warren’s but the people that they’ve been trying to save against the unseen powers of evil that are out there in the universe.
Ultimately, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is still an entertaining entry into the canon but it’s time for the story of the Warren’s to be put to bed. Unless we get some more character driven meat on the bones of the narrative to see what makes them tick at various stages of their lives, they’re nothing more than props in a creepy story that is forgetting how to make us scared of those things that go bump in the night.