The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the latest in the fast growing Conjuring franchise.
The Conjuring (2013) followed a paranormal case in Rhode Island and introduced the Annabelle doll character who gained her own film in 2014. In 2016’s The Conjuring 2 we met The Nun, who also gained her own film in 2018. In the third instalment of this franchise another paranormal case is recorded and documented by Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farminga) Warren in the 1980s, but instead of exploring a haunted house, this story is based on the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruari O’Connor) in Connecticut. This unique case saw Johnson claim that he was possessed by a devil when he was in court charged with the murder of his landlord, meaning that this film avoids the risk of becoming repetitive by taking a detective-style approach and providing a legal twist to the traditional Conjuring storyline.
A change in director also brings freshness to the franchise. The first two Conjuring films were directed by the seasoned horror producer, James Wan, while The Devil Made Me Do It is directed by Michael Chaves. In terms of storyline, this film stays true to the Conjuring franchise as all three of the films follow a paranormal case investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Devil Made Me Do It introduces some stylistic changes, the most notable being the use of camera angles. The first two Conjuring films used a huge range of angles to allow us to see the action from the Warren’s, the family’s, and even the devil’s perspectives in the first two films, but this range does not seem to be as extensive in the third movie. This meant that this film does not have the same levels of horror as the previous two Conjuring films. This can leave you feeling a lot less submerged in the action, as if you’re watching from a distance. If you’re less of a thrill-seeker and thought the first two films were a little too scary, this film will be more your cup of tea.
And yet it feels as if The Devil Made Me Do It hasn’t lived up to its full potential. It would have been interesting to see more of the court aspects of the case. Very little of the film is dedicated to the actual court case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson despite there being verified documentation of this real-life trial. Because the film is based on this true story, it would have been beneficial to include real-life documentation of what happened in court rather than focusing heavily on the fictionalised story of the Warren’s tracking down the devil who had supposedly cursed Johnson. The combination of the paranormal and the legal has the potential to add to the mind-bending nature of The Conjuring franchise, but it falls short because this part of the story was not fully executed.
On the other hand, Anne McCarthy and Kellie Roy’s casting is on point. They cast both familiar and lesser-known actors who help to keep the film fresh. The film would not be complete without Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, but Ruairi O’Connor’s acting in the role of Johnson is fantastic, he captures such a range of emotions it is hard not to sympathise with his character. It was also nice to see Julian Hillard (who also played Luke in The Haunting of Hill House) cast as David, at only nine years old he is certainly gaining a great horror orientated portfolio and his innocent expressions are perfect for the role of David.
Overall, the plot is cleverly written and provides a fresh and fascinating insight into the Warren’s work by providing a legal twist. In this way the film strays away from the traditional horror film, and although it is exciting, the film would have benefitted from further exploration of the legal case. It is also disappointed that we were not introduced to another strong paranormal character, like Annabelle or The Nun. This likely means that if another Conjuring film is produced, it will be the fourth instalment of the main Conjuring series rather than a spin-off featuring a character we were introduced to in the original films. This would very likely be repetitive, a risk that The Devil Made Me Do It only narrowly avoided.
Producing a threequel that lives up to its precedent films is no easy feat, especially considering the delays it suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, all things considered, this film provides a fresh outlook on the trilogy whilst staying true to the chilling Conjuring storylines but the plot did not live up to expectation.
Words by Sarah Garner
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