Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard
Even with plenty of success going with a specific formula, switching things up can be refreshing to any narrative in order for a tale to not get stale. However, the change still needs to be measured up, which The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It has trouble in fully doing mostly because it takes on a real court case that took place. With fewer scares to boot, this feature gets saved by continuing to focus on the loving relationship of the Warrens.
Following a particularly stressful exorcism, Ed (Patrick Wilson) suffers from a heart attack, which sidelines him but provides context for Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) as a tragic murder that occurs. Now, with a young man on trial for murder, while possessed by the devil, Ed and Lorrain try to help the attornies make the case of this being the truth with quite the skeptical audience.
This third addition to The Conjuring walks quite the tightrope in taking on this story. Through the first two films, which have gained the adoration of many, including myself, these stories have toed the line of the real Warrens pretty much being scammers. These films, in a sense, have brought them some sense of credibility due to the wonderful chemistry of the two lead actors. Each of the other cases stayed intimate and within particular homes. This feature, however, takes on an actual case that took place in a court of law. In reality, when this case occurred, having the defendant plead possession by the devil was ludicrous but when this film tries to actually back up its assertion of any of it being true, the narrative essentially defends that claim. A scene even exists where Ed suggests to an attorney that the court has acknowledged the existence of God with each swearing-in but perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the devil. Combine these elements and this feature feels much ickier than the others and needs to hit it out of the park with its narrative, which it does rather mildly.
Dating back to the first feature, which genuinely provided many horrifying moments, the main draw coming out of it appeared in the praise for Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in their portrayal of the Warrens. They have done so well that anyone who takes umbrage with the real Warrens can just go to these two as a couple because they really sell this romance so well. This leads to the film’s biggest highlight with the narrative continuing to center itself on the relationship between these two, which partly makes these movies romance films in such a lovely way. This allows the film to have the proper foundation to try something new, which does deserve some praise.
Following two successful features centering on haunted houses, moving into this case and a larger battle they must fight, like the occult, the shift this series of films takes feels quite jarring. Instead of having this intimate and enclosed area where all of the action happens, everything occurs on the outside as this couple becomes more investigative in trying to find what may have caused Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) to be possessed by the devil. Instead of it being some abstract demon, another human then becomes the villain they must find before it becomes too late. Adding this human component certainly adds an interesting element, but it sacrifices the fear of demons as compared to something conjured up by some occultists looking to wreak some havoc. This ultimately leaves a conflicted feeling where it deserves kudos for trying out something new, but it does not really measure up to what worked well before.
Entering the fray with an awkward title change, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It makes quite the shift in this series of films. Not having James Wan direct this entry certainly could be felt in how the story comes together. The feature certainly deserves respect for just going in a completely different direction, almost to shock the system to test whether or not Ed and Lorraine could succeed in different terrain. However, in order to make the shift, the film loses so much of the horror that worked so well in the past and became what made these films so appreciated. Definitely a big step down overall but as long as Farmiga and Wilson portray these characters, they will conjure a beautiful love that makes even this mild entry enjoyable to watch.