The truth is out there in surprisingly procedural threequel The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)
Having come to THE CONJURING universe quite late, and taken a rather haphazard approach to watching them (I think ANNABELLE COMES HOME might have been my very first), it’s taken me a while to realise that I seem to enjoy the movies which remind me of something else more than the others. I enjoyed THE NUN’s twisted take on SCOOBY-DOO, for example, and THE CONJURING 2 gave me strong SAPPHIRE & STEEL vibes so I’m pleased to say THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, the third entry in the main series, ticked this box too with a procedural twist to the usual demonic possession shenanigans which refashions Ed and Lorraine Warren into an early eighties Mulder & Scully as THE CONJURING gives us its spin on THE X-FILES.
During the chaotic exorcism of David Getzel, Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) suffers a heart attack induced by the demonic presence but not before he sees young Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) beg the demon to leave young David and take him instead. With David free, and Ed in a coma, Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) believe the demonic danger has subsided. But when a possessed Arne murders his landlord, he turns to the Warrens to help prove his plea that he is not guilty by reason of demonic possession.
In the same way THE CONJURING 2 was a sequel within a sequel, basically telling the story of what happened after THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, so THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT brings us a story of what happened after THE EXORCIST, even down to including a rather on-the-nose homage to that film’s iconic imagery. Driven by the warm chemistry and innate watchability of Wilson and Farmiga – who have their roles down pat by now – this tale unfolds in much more mystery thriller fashion than previous instalments and the hopping of genre tracks help keep things fresh and avoid a sense of haunted house repetition. The Warrens here are facing not only a demonic presence, but a race against time to save a life and discover the connection between Arne’s situation and a seemingly unconnected murder case upstate. Another interesting addition to this instalment is the presence of a very human antagonist, a shadowy figure who provides Lorraine with an adversary that’s as gifted as she is, albeit as a dark reflection. There’s more tension and less out-and-out horror this time out, too, with a few genuinely funny moments that feel organic to the story rather than forced in for checkbox purposes.
The performances are strong across the board, but it continues to be Farmiga and Wilson who make these films so watchable. I always enjoy the fact that Vera Farmiga makes an effort to style herself and look somewhat like the real-life Lorraine Warren while Patrick Wilson clearly took one look at his inspiration – and decided to go in another direction entirely. It certainly doesn’t spoil the fun, though, and while it may not hit the white-knuckle scare levels that some fans might be expecting, THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT is another strong adaptation from the real-life case files of the Warrens and demonstrates that while the spin-offs may be a mixed bag at best, there’s more than enough spirit in the main series to keep this franchise from passing on for some time yet.