This threequel has been possessed by money demons.
In this “Conjuring” universe, I was only a fan of the first two movies with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson playing paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren, because of their dangerous and riveting intentions to channel on William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist.” But I can’t say the same for the spin-offs and prequels (from “Annabelle” to “The Curse of La Llorona”), which were all noisy, typical, obligatory, and lame. Now we have the third entry with Farmiga and Wilson back in the leads, titled “The Devil Made Me Do It,” which is the weakest of the three “Conjurings.”
There are times when I was interested in “The Devil Made Me Do It,” regarding the two leads and their commitments to the real-life characters, and there are times when I’m thinking: “Oh, come on, this is silly.” That’s when I hear Lorraine tell an African-American detective (Keith Arthur Bolden): “Because I’ve seen things your people can’t” or when the Warrens nearly get attacked by a fat demon at a morgue. And there’s also a scene when the main victim looks through a scary hole, and I was reminded of what Roger Ebert said regarding “The Grudge:” “You should never, never stick your hands in a place where you hear a scary noise.” I mean there was no noise when he saw it, but still.
Here’s why I’m mentioning this.
The sequel begins in 1981 with Ed and Lorraine performing an exorcism on a possessed child named David Glatzel (Julian Hillard), who puts Ed in the hospital with a heart attack and forces his sister Debbie’s (Sarah Catherine Hook) boyfriend Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) to volunteer to let the demon take his soul. Days later, the demon consumes Arne and forces him to stab his abusive landlord (Ronnie Gene Blevins) to death. Time is running out, and the kid could be up for death row, unless the Warrens can prove his innocence. Debbie must be at Arne’s side, while Ed and Lorraine seek guidance from a former priest (John Noble), who dealt with a satanic ritual years ago.
I’ve seen this kind of things before countless times, when people can’t convince people that a supernatural activity has happened, whether we’re talking about body swaps (“Freaky Friday”) or kids wishing to be adults (“Big”). Here’s my reaction now that we’re in 2021: “Well, of course, they don’t believe you, because they’re in reality. And in reality, people aren’t supposed to be believe a fantasy is taking over.” This is the part where you would comment that movies are supposed to go in those directions, and your comments are valuable, but this thought has been burning in my head for a while, and I just want to get it out in the open.
But let’s get back to “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” shall we?
James Wan serves as a writer and producer, while Michael Chaves (“The Curse of La Llorona”) takes over the director’s chair. He made some stupid choices in his last film, and he makes some silly (not idiotic) options this time. The screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick doesn’t make the story all compelling or intriguing, the horrors aren’t scary, and the supporting characters are all cut-and-paste. Now the first two movies had entertaining supporting characters, like Ron Livington and Lili Taylor in the first, or Simon McBurney and Frances O’Connor in the second. But in the third, they don’t have the likable appeal as neither them nor the two leads.
There are moments worth seeing if you’re on your computer or TV (since this is being released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max), like how Arne tells a cop (“I think I hurt someone”) while walking in his blood or when the Warrens learn about some ancient satanic rituals. But “The Devil Made Me Do It” lacks the scope and emotional depth of the first two, and never really takes us anywhere. It’s more lackluster than scary.
At this point, it faces competition with another horror sequel called “A Quiet Place: Part II” at the domestic box office. I’m pretty sure “The Devil Made Me Do It” will rank at Number 1, but I still think the other one is the more riveting and entertaining one to see.
In Theaters and On HBO Max