Movie Review | ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’  Hangs on a Case of ‘What If’

“…How do you plead?”

“Your honour, my client pleads not guilty by reason of demonic possession”

Image via Warner Bros

In the third installment of The Conjuring franchise, The Warrens are back on screen with a case that is quite different from its predecessors. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It focuses on the real life case of Arne Cheynne Johnson–– the first man to claim demonic possession for  murder in a court of law in the United States. Directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) and produced by James Wan (Saw), who helmed the directorial role for the previous installments and Peter Safran (Annabelle: Creation), The Devil Made Me Do It is the seventh film in The Conjuring universe (with three Annabelle movies and The Nun).

The opening sequence of the movie begins in 1981 with the exorcism of eight-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard) in the presence of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Famiga). It is a chilling and terrifying exorcism like that of Bathsheba Sherman in the first Conjuring. The exorcism does not go as expected and bold Arnie Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), boyfriend to the sister of the possessed, Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook) politely asks the demon to leave the young boy alone and take him instead. And just like that, the agony that comes with the twisting and breaking of David’s body at  inconceivable angles, comes to an end. With Arne in the grip of this demon, he commits a brutal murder–– he stabs his landlord, Bruno Sauls (Ronnie Gene Belvins) 22 times. With this incident, Arne is arrested, and he claims “the devil made him do it”. This unprecedented event brings the Warrens back to the case to investigate the type of evil force that is in play.

Arne Johnson in The Devil Made Me Do It
Image via Warner Bros

The opening scene of the movie is horrifying and it builds up the tension that viewers are in for  a scary ride. However, in the long run, the third installment of The conjuring franchise, The Devil Made Me Do It, fails to conjure up the terrifying and scary images of its predecessors. The movie deviates from its usual haunted house setting and it  gives out the vibe of an investigative thriller rather than a horror movie. With the frightening trailer and a real life case where the devil is blamed for a crime in a murder trial, this ought to be just the brilliant fresh twist we were all looking for. 

But, the third part loses its charm and the difference it is so hellbent on portraying. I  have this belief that the third part of most movies should always be avoided because that is usually where most writers or directors hit a roadblock. Most of them just seem to never get it right. The likes of Blade, The Mummy, and The Matrix, amongst others, which pushed their luck due to the success of their  original installments, but sadly, they only landed on the mediocrity bar, and now we can say the same about The Conjuring

Apparently, making sequels to movies is where the ideas fall apart, but with the case of The Devil Made Me Do It, it is a question of what if? What if James Wan helmed the directorial role instead of Michael Chaves? Like another horror movie directed by Michael Chaves, The Curse of La Llorona, it’s an average horror movie that fails to scare viewers and just like The Devil Made Me Do It, it falls in the category of  horror movies that failed to live up to their name. Trust me, there’s no devil to see here, just humans doing what they do best— playing with fire.  James Wan, the director who brilliantly weaved the first two Conjuring movies and with his directorial role in Saw, one would know that he knows how to scare the shit out of people. So like I said, would it have been different if he directed the third part? I guess we will never know.

Image via Warner Bros

Patrick Wilson (Aquaman) and Vera Farmiga (Orphan), who play the iconic paranormal investigators  once again, give the roles life and the much needed demeanor, but it just wasn’t enough to save the movie. There is a little backstory dedicated to them–– how they met, which delineates their unbreakable bond. A bond which is put into effect in the latter part of the movie. The plot is stretched with an unending question of “what exactly are we dealing with?” and the going back and forth of the Warrens to retrace the steps of the demon would make one think they are dealing with the devil himself.

Eventually, the antagonist turns out to be disappointing, and what ought to be the climax of the movie falls flat and is less exciting. It seems the haunted house setting employed in the first two installments gave a form of constraint which helped to heighten the horrific stories. In other words, whatever potion or ‘magical’ effect they used in the previous installments, is non-existent in The Devil Made Me Do It and I almost wished they never made a third part.

Rating: 6/10

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Side Musings

  • The solemn sound and visuals (the claw marks) that come with the opening scenes is brilliant. I was almost convinced it would be the horror story of the year from the beginning.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is currently in theatres and on HBO Max.

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