Review: Michael Chaves' 'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It'
by Zofia Wijaszka
June 4, 2021
I was just a student when I first learned about Ed and Lorraine Warren. My friend and I decided to give a presentation about them and their work fighting against demonic forces. After seeing the first installment of The Conjuring, I was blown away by James Wan's intricate storytelling and the film's elevated uniqueness within the horror genre. The third installment in this horror franchise, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, directed by Michael Chaves (of The Curse of La Llorona previously), possesses a divergent feeling. It falls rather short of its predecessors; however, its fascinating story based on true events, along with actors Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson returning as Lorraine & Ed Warren, still charm and spook.
The year is 1981. While Ed and Lorraine Warren prepare for an exorcism, 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard) lies limp in his mother's arms. His sister, Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook), and her boyfriend, Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor), are also present. It seems that the exorcism is a success, and David is safe after all, but it's only a beginning for another person in the room. Shortly after, Arne commits a brutal murder. However, the Warrens and Arne himself believe that he was under the influence of a force that previously possessed David. The "Devil Made Me Do It" case is one of the most compelling court cases in history, as well as the first one in the United States in which the defense attempted to prove innocence based on the defendant's statement of demonic interference at the time of the murder. The case received extensive coverage in the media, with the Warrens having a vested interest in Arne's fate. In my opinion, a grain of truth in every part makes the franchise unusual, including the third one.
Chavez starts the third installment on a high note. As night falls, a priest dressed in all black, with a hat on his head, steps out of the car and looks at the Glatzels' house, just like Father Merrin before him. I can't help but think it's a nice wink to the audience, particularly fans of The Exorcist. Even though the director of The Curse of La Llorona works hard to try and live up to the high bar set earlier by James Wan, the overall atmosphere feels jarring. The Devil Made Me Do It has many different plot points, making it feel like it's cut into various scary stories. I miss the consistency that was so evident in the previous parts. Fortunately, the possession of David and the subsequent story with Arne are both familiar, which, sort of, saves the film.
Ed and Lorraine Warren are a distinguishing feature of The Conjuring universe, making the films, as well as the third installment, a unique, elevated experience within the horror genre. Farmiga and Wilson deserve continuous praise for their portrayals of paranormal investigators. The real-life Lorraine and Ed's extensive work includes a variety of surprising cases. Numerous of them possess audio and video recordings. Their commitment and love are beautifully intertwined into the narrative of The Devil Made Me Do It. I would even risk saying that they are the very best part of the film and the whole franchise.
While I do jump and occasionally cover my eyes when I see David's body bent in impossible places, I am utterly charmed by the passion, love, and care that the Warrens have for one another, as shown in several scenes. Lorraine's memory of their first meeting is revealed to us in one of them. The rain is pouring outside as the young couple seeks shelter in a round, white gazebo. They gaze at each other, and their budding love is palpable, manifesting itself in their smiles and happy eyes. As a die-hard fan of the franchise and the Warrens, this is why, despite its flaws and stumbles, the third installment is still quite enjoyable for me.
When I first discovered this horror franchise, I was immediately struck by Vera Farmiga's performance as Lorraine, particularly in scenes where she demonstrates her clairvoyance. In The Devil Made Me Do It, one of the detectives decides to test Lorraine's abilities by subjecting her to cheap tricks where she, of course, proves him wrong. In one of the following scenes, she and Ed are looking for clues in regards to Arne's case. Lorraine does what she does best: she summons her clairvoyance and transports us into the dark, eerie forest. These particular scenes, in which we are welcomed into Lorraine's world, are among my favorites, and I'm glad Chaves included them in the film.
This new chapter also feels different because it focuses more on the curse rather than possession, and the Warrens battle someone who is still alive rather than someone who is long dead. The new antagonist's powerful strength and dangerously stoic demeanor reminded me of Alice Krige's Witch in Gretel & Hansel. Another factor in The Devil Made Me Do It that allowed me to overlook its flaws is the music from the 1970s and 1980s; it's where the film has truly captured my heart. There is a scene in which Blondie's "Call Me" begins to play from the speakers of the old, heavy-looking stereo. The song blends with Arne's emotions as he gradually loses touch with reality and, moments later, murders his landlord while the music slows down and transforms into rather eerie notes.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It might not be the most powerful film of the franchise. The script isn't as elaborate, and the film occasionally drags, making me to glance at my watch a few times. However, thanks to the excellent portrayal of the Warrens and an intriguing element of witchcraft woven into the plot, I thoroughly enjoyed this eerie ride. As I am conflicted and I do miss James Wan's skillful eye, I'm sure I'll still come back to it if they offer us yet another new film in this series.
Zofia's Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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