When Warner bros first partnered with horror auteur James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Deadly Silence) back in 2013 for a little movie called ‘The Conjuring’ no one could have predicted the widespread appeal and success it would have with audiences across the world. Fast forward 8 years, a critically acclaimed sequel and 5 spin offs to boot, the ‘conjuring-verse’ is back and bigger than ever with its second main line sequel to the original: ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ once again following The “real” case files of paranormal investigator couple Ed and Lorraine Warren as they attempt to save a man from the death penalty by proving his crime was caused by ghostly possession.
For the first time in the main line series, James wan has stepped away from the directors chair, handing the reigns to Michael Chavas (La Llorna) who whole heartedly steps up to the plate and with wan acting as his mentor-esque producer, delivering a solid, scare filled instalment that feels like a true return to form for a franchise many we’re believing to have run it’s course, even managing to sit amongst the best in the series. Like his predecessor, Chaves refuses to take the simple and predictable route when dealing with his scares, instead opting for the more unconventional and unexpected frights with a focus on atmospheric horror and devilishly smart use of lighting or lack their of to produce original and hair raising moments through out.
Like the movies that came before it, this outing with the Warrens is marred in reality. Opting for a more dramatised approach to its story telling, choosing to this time focus on the real life court proceedings of ‘Arne Johnson’ (Ruairi O’Connor), a story that helps maintain and even peak our interest in between the movies nightmarish set pieces as the Warrens race against the clock to discover who or what caused this man to murder his friend. It’s a great addition to the established formula, as the movie becomes more of a ‘who’s causing it rather’ than the typical ‘whodunnit’ which helps elevate what could have been another by the numbers entry in this behemoth franchise to something that demands your attention.
At its core, this movie like the previous 2 mainline instalments is carried by its central characters, The Warrens. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as the titular couple both turning in exceptionally heart felt performances that once again reminds us of why we fell in love with this ghost busting duo in the first place. Keeping in line with previous movies, it’s the pairs relationship and their love for one another that bares the weight of films narrative, this time deciding to shine a light on how the pair first met. Told through a mixture of stunning visuals and touching moments that help further highlight the roots of this couples lasting relationship, something not often found in studio horror movies. Alongside this, we are also presented with a different side to Ed as he struggles with the reality of having a heart attack, making each action he’s forced to perform feel as though it could be the end of him. From running through a forest in search of his wife or simply swinging a hammer, the constant strain on his heart is ever prevalent and works wonders for keeping the movies tension high throughout.
With that said, the movie isn’t without its faults, unlike the previous 2, the stakes here feel drastically lower. In the past, the warrens fought to save the lives of tormented families from various demonic entities, be it the horrific ‘Bathsheba’ who plagued the Perron family or the ‘Nun’ who ruined the lives of the Hodgson girls, here the attention is put solely on a Satanist who uses satanic curses to torture their victims, forcing them to perform acts of violence. On paper this sounds like a perfect fit for this franchise but instead makes the horror feel hollow, only shining more of a light on the person behind the acts rather than the horror itself. With that said my hope for the franchise is that moving forward they return to giving us more memorable villains as opposed to what we were left with here.
However, don’t let this deter you from checking out this franchises’ latest entry. If James wan set the bar for these movies with his trademark style and finesse, Chavas proves that there is still room for fresh and original ideas even if at times it may not live up to the high expectations set by its fan base, ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is still amongst the best studio led horrors on the market today.
Horror, Mystery | USA, 2020 | 15 | Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital HD | 6th September 2021 (UK) | Warner Bros. Pictures | Dir.Michael Chavas | Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, John Noble, Julian Hilliard