The Conjuring Universe continues with its newest film, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, directed by Michael Chaves. When viewers last saw the Warrens, they had officially contained the Annabelle doll. In this new installment, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Elizabeth Warren (Vera Farmiga) investigate a murder that may be linked to demonic possession. After an unsuccessful exorcism done by the Warrens, Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) finds himself under the control of a demon. Arne begins to have visions as he slowly gets taken over by the demon. Thinking that his landlord (Ronnie Gene Blevins) is abusing his girlfriend, Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook), Arne lashes out and kills his landlord. Knowing that the demon did this, the Warrens agree to help Arne in proving his innocence, which leads to this being the first trial case where someone claims a crime was done under demonic possession.
At the heart of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, both Farmiga and Wilson carry the film with incredible performances. It’s clear from the opening scene as to how much they care for one another. One of the recurring themes in the Conjuring films is the power that love and faith have. There’s even a flashback scene of Ed and Loraine’s relationship that plays a big role in the end. While it’s great to see the great chemistry that these two actors have that makes their relationship so loving and unique, the attention is taken away from the plot of the story. There’s no problem focusing on Ed and Loraine’s relationship, but how much of that is connected to Johnson’s trial is a mystery.
Unfortunately, much like most of its predecessors, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It relies heavily on jump scares to make its audience scared. While this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, there comes a point where the scares become rather boring. To make matters worse, the jump scares become extremely predictable.
As the film progresses, it wouldn’t be hard for viewers to keep count of how many seconds it takes for a jump scare to occur after the film sets it up. For instance, there’s a scene that is shown in the trailer where one of the characters is laying on a water bed. After a bit of a pause, the character starts to get pulled under by a demon. There’s also a lot of scenes where characters look back because they’re being followed but don’t see anything, only to turn around yet again and be confronted by a demon. Both instances are extremely predictable and take away from the potential that this film had to be scary.
From the first trailer of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, it’s not hard to determine what sort of film many viewers thought this would be. The trailers focused on Johnson’s trial and the investigation to prove his innocence. However, there are multiple points throughout the plot where even the film doesn’t know where the story is going. For one, it jumps around between different plots that didn’t seem to have much to do with the original case. Without going into heavy spoilers, there is a major element of the film that doesn’t have much to do with Arne or his trial.
Fans who were expecting big trial scenes mixed with horror elements will be surely disappointed. The film goes above and beyond to add much more to how the real-life investigation and trial took place that it feels very forced. Focusing on the trial and even adding more to what happened to make it more engaging could have brought force a more enjoyable film. It had already broken away from true events within the first few minutes of the film. Implementing more to the trial wouldn’t have been any different than what was already being done.
While most of the effects throughout The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It were great, some were extremely questionable. For one, the opening sequence of the exorcism lacks the tension to make it scary. Seeing a child’s body attack adults because he’s possessed is just not believable, even if this is partially a work of fiction. It’s easier to laugh at the child rather than be terrified of what’s going on or the possibility of him being hurt. On the other hand, those same effects worked really well with the scenes that showed Arne being fully possessed. It was clear how much pain he was and the struggle he had to hang on for the Warrens’ support. The several creatures and Demonds that show up throughout the film were excellently designed and brought what a small portion of horror that this movie needed to recover. Having watched the rest of the series as new films are released, it was disappointing to see how much the effect designs take away from the horror elements.
Ultimately, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It offers a deeper look at the relationship between the Warrens but falls short due to overusing jump scares, diverging into multiple stories rather than its main plot, and some questionable effects. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the conclusion of the main Conjuring films. But that doesn’t mean its spin-off films are far from over.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is playing in theaters and available to stream until July 2021 on HBO Max.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It offers a deeper look at the relationship between the Warrens but falls short due to overusing jump scares, diverging into multiple stories rather than its main plot, and some questionable effects.