It’s been a while since I watched The Conjuring (2013), but I have fond memories of that film. I didn’t mind The Conjuring 2 (2016), but I’ve been mostly down on the other films in the franchise. The title of the third official Conjuring didn’t exactly fill me with hope. While my concerns were mostly correct, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) is watchable enough…despite never really feeling like a horror film.
Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren are involved in the exorcism of David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). Things don’t quite go as easy as Ed anticipates, and a friend of the Glatzel family – Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) – offers himself to the demon in place of the young David. Days go by before Arne is truly regretting his bold claim, and he commits a murder. The Warrens come to his defense, claiming that he was possed, and set out to prove that Arne was not the one responsible for the murder.
One of the biggest issues director Michael Chaves finds himself having to deal with in this film is the Warrens. They are positioned to be more like ‘80s action heroes than paranormal investigators. After two films, Ed and Lorraine are forced to be the protagonists of the film rather than the audience surrogate. They are the reason we are witnessing the story – but it really isn’t their story. The film should be centered around Arne and his struggle,l – and while it cross-cuts with him, he is clearly not the one we are meant to be rooting for. He is at the mercy of whether or not Ed and Lorraine are successful in their part of the story. This could be fine, if not for the film’s selling point on this whole adventure being based on a “true” story. Instead, the film puts its hope in Ed and Lorraine to be compelling enough figures that the audience will root for them as they take on the evils…and the movie never quite finds the “horror” that its predecessors did.
Fans of the genre will likely recognize some major moments from horror films of the past. The Exorcist and The Shining both get paid homage by Chaves. While the scenes or shots are clearly pulled and meant to pay tribute to the films that likely inspired Chaves, they really don’t fit into this film. In fact, they feel outright out of place – primarily because this is the third film of the Warren’s story and the 8th of the Conjurverse. These films have their own visual language that was established with The Conjuring and its creator James Wan. Much of this film feels like a new filmmaker getting to flex his film knowledge rather than dedicating those chops to tell this story…or maybe I’m just nitpicking a film that I found to be a weak entry by comparison to the one that started it all.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) is a bad title, but it’s not a terrible movie. Fans of the Warren’s and believers in their “true” stories will likely find this to be quite interesting. Wilson and Farmiga bring the same level of chemistry that made the previous entries compelling. Nonetheless, it’s not a film you need to rush out to see, especially since it is included with HBO Max. The Conjuring 3 earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.