FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET SEEN The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW
When I sat down to watch this third installment of the Conjuring franchise, I couldn’t help, but think back on that summer day in 2013 when I first experienced the original. I was completely unaware that I’d be witnessing one of the most terrifying films that I had ever seen. The years have passed and we’ve gotten sequels and spin-offs in this extended universe. All of them varying in quality, but never coming close to the greatness of the first. I couldn’t help, even without original director James Wan’s assured hand, that this third film in The Conjuring-proper series would rival the quality of the first. Unfortunately, that is not the case… but, that certainly does not mean that this is not worth your time.
WHAT ARE ED AND LORRAINE WARREN UP TO IN THIS NEW FILM?
Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are brought in to help with the exorcism of a young boy named David (Julian Hilliard). During the process, the demonic spirit travels from the boy’s body to that of his older sister’s boyfriend, Arne (Ruairi O’Connor). This leads to one of the most sensational stories in the Warren’s case files, as the now-possessed young man is on trial for murder. They must try to prove that Arne is innocent, for the first time in U.S. History that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.
HOW IS THIS NEW FILM DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF THE SERIES?
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have been doing the rounds promoting this film for quite awhile. One thing that they have promised is that this film will be much different than the first two. And they are not wrong with stating that. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It ditches the haunted house angle completely. This time, to concentrate on a satanic occult approach that feels a little off-base from what this series has been built around. The film also centers more on the process of an investigation, rather than around the plight of a family to survive a sinister force. This is where the movie really struggles for me, as this investigative process comes off as half-baked and never fully realized. Films that succeed with this type of set-up allow the audience to follow the clues with the protagonists. Unfortunately The Conjuring 3 keeps you in the dark for most of its runtime.
HOW ARE FARMIGA AND WILSON IN THEIR ROLES?
What works the most in this installment is Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson finally being able to take center stage. The last two films have centered primarily on the family that is being affected by a possession. All the while Ed and Lorraine were more presences in the background. Here, they are allowed to really take the reins and flesh out these characters who audiences have grown to love. Farmiga and Wilson have always elevated the material of these movies with their striking performances and potent chemistry. Here, they are acting on double duty to lift up this screenplay which is the weakest of the series. Luckily, they are up to the task and continue to validate this series existence, by their participation alone.
IS THE CONJURING 3 GOING TO MAKE ME KEEP THE LIGHTS ON AT NIGHT?
At the end of the day the reason we go see these Conjuring films, is that we want to be terrified. And The Conjuring 3, despite an explosive and spine-tingling opening sequence, mostly lacks the scares that we have come to expect from the series. This lack of shocking moments derives from two different problems, I believe. The first, is just the sheer fact that some of the writing here is lazy. There are moments that are meant to make you jump in fear that come off as laughable and blatantly obvious. The other reason is that these films have created a formula that is now well-worn. Which, of course, gives way to the absence of any real surprises. I must admit though, there are a few chilling scenes in this film. Sequences that are so creative and unlike anything we’ve seen in this series, that you can’t help, but see the potential that was squandered here.
HOW DOES THE FILM TIE UP THE SERIES?
If word on the street is true, this might be the last time we see Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson take on the roles of the Warren’s. And I do believe that director Michael Chaves has, at the very least, given them the send-off that they deserve. By concentrating this film on the strength of their relationship and the power of Ed and Lorraine’s love for each other, The Conjuring 3 does feel like it has a beating heart. I just wish that there were scares and nuanced writing, to compliment that heart.
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