The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is classic Conjuring. The film opens with our stalwart heroes Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) as they comfort a family waiting for an official exorcism for young David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). Older sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook) assists as her beau Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) puts David to bed for the night. Then all hell breaks loose, delivering a satisfyingly tense opening depicting an off-the-rails exorcism that puts Ed in mortal danger, Lorraine in psychic peril, and Arne with a target on his back. Director Michael Chaves rises above his tedious The Curse of La Llorona with a script from David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, with a story from James Wan to deliver a third chapter in The Conjuring universe that delivers few real scares, while offering a fun who-dunnit in the process.
Little David is free of possession. But oopsie, Arne may have asked for the burden. In a beautiful Wansian shot we learn all that we need to know about where Arne and Debbie ended up post-cold-open as the budding newlyweds live above a kernel run by insufferable Bruno (Ronnie Gene Blevins). Cutting to the chase, Arne feels increasingly weird, as their landlord/boss/friend Bruno becomes more insufferable. Then there is the murder. Stumbling and stammering along the roadside Arne is discovered, covered in blood. He thinks he might have hurt someone. We cut to his arrest, and a lawyer who hears The Warren’s out and argues the groundbreaking case of demonic possession.
The story is set. The Warrens must solve the mystery of David and Arne’s possession in order to save a life. Meanwhile, the demonic threat that needs to claim a soul continues to hound the Warrens, Arne, David, and all that dare to tangle with it.
I think that a litmus test is in order. This reviewer is a fan of the first Conjuring, with the caveat that it goes nuts at the end. The Conjuring 2 was ok but went way off the rails with universe-building and CGI spirits. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It lands somewhere in the middle. To be clear there are no real scares. Yet it is still the darkest Conjuring yet. This is a devilishly fun ride that establishes Wilson and Farmiga as the paranormal power couple to end all that plays more like a mystery than horror movie.
Chaves has proven his technical prowess as the consummate journeyman director. He can ape Wan, but something tells me he has a nasty talent for horror just waiting for the right moment. This is crowd-pleasing, hair-raising horror that is the best reason to get back to the movies yet if for no other reason than to scream again. Get out there, support horror, and see this devilishly fun ride. Say your prayers and buckle up.
7 out of 10