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Review: ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ (2021): The Devil Makes Three (Spoiler-Free)

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Review: 'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It' (2021): The Devil Makes Three (Spoiler-Free)

This movie is 112 minutes long, and I just sat spending at least twice that time trying to come up with a clever title (several Warren Zevon puns, Dostoevsky’s “Warren Peace,” etc.). Titles are important, for movies AND movie reviews. And horror movie franchises can follow some pretty unorthodox naming convention. Take this very franchise, for example: The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, you’d think we’d get a pattern going here, right? Conjuring is the instance, and then Conjuring 2 is the coincidence, leading one to guess that maybe we’d get a Conjuring 3. Wrong! The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. It’s like these guys are in cahoots with marquee letter-makers. But that’s all in line with good horror, right gang? Because unconventional sequel names are the norm in horror! There are three movies in the Halloween franchise titled, simply, Halloween! Then there’s Alien, singular, Aliens, plural, and then Alien 3, where they drop the “s” and go back to singular! Oy vey.

So anyhow, here we are at the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. And what can we say about it, in addition to it being a mouthful? Well, for me, personally, this was a long-awaited sequel. Ever since we last saw the Warren clan in Annabelle Comes Home, I’ve been clamoring for more of the family’s exploits. That was a lifetime ago though. That movie came out on June 26th, 2019, and it was the last movie I ever saw drunk. That used to be my modus operandi. I’d go see something in theaters, and I’d be so drunk that, by the time it was out on DVD, it was like a brand new movie because of how little I remembered. But that stopped with Annabelle Comes Home, I stopped drinking three days later, and horror has kept me sober since.

So, other than me getting my shit together, what else has changed in the interim? Well, for starters, James Wan is no longer in the pilot’s seat on every Conjuring movie. Again, because of the precedent set by the first two, you wouldn’t be foolish to guess that pattern would continue with the third. So instead of James Wan directing, we have Michael Chaves. Within the Conjuring Cinematic Universe, Chaves is probably best known for helming The Curse of La Llorna, which can be best described as “a movie that exists.” That’s generous, even. If that movie seems cobbled together, it’s because, well, it was never really meant to be about the Mexican myth of The Weeping Woman. Last minute changes brought the franchise a Latinx tale.

The Conjuring The Devil Made Me Do It Image

Luckily, Chaves does a fine job here. If anything, he does the series a real service by not drawing any attention to himself. A lesser director would probably feel the need to take some big stylistic swings, stamping the movie with their personal signature. But, I am happy to report that Chaves understood the assignment completely, and handed in a great Conjuring movie, instead of a great Michael Chaves movie.

What else is new with this one? Well, perhaps mercifully, perhaps disappointingly, the movie drops the “haunted house” schtick of the first two Conjurings. And I completely understand why. For Chaves to make the best movie possible, he had to take the Warrens out of the haunted house. That is, as proven time and time again, James Wan’s area of expertise. That fella can take four walls and a roof and turn it into a chilling, old-school thrill ride. There is nobody making movies right now that makes a better haunted house than James Wan. So, you may love the Warrens in a haunted house, but Michael Chaves is going to make you love them in any ol’ location.

The Warrens! They’re finally given the whole movie. Did you ever notice how they were kinda the cavalry in the other movies they show up in? Like… The other Conjuring flicks establish a location first. The Conjuring gives us Harrisville, Rhode Island, while The Conjuring 2 takes us to Enfield, in London. Then, each movie introduces the family that will be affected by the various hauntings. We’re gently introduced to the setting and characters so that way when things kick off, we know who we’re rooting for. And then finally, the things get so bad and scary that Ed and Lorraine Warren get called in at the eleventh hour.

The Conjuring The Devil Made Me Do It Movie Image

That gets turned on its head a little bit here. Instead, we’re thrust right into the action. Ed and Lorraine are already there. They’re investigating and things escalate, and I don’t want to give too much away, really.

Look… This movie is based on a true story. So, you could very well read the public records and articles and books about that story. That’s your prerogative. But most importantly, I don’t want to spoil any of this story for you. Because it’s great. It’s propulsive. And it gives the Warrens a stage to absolutely shine on.

This movie, front to back, belongs to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. They are electric here. It’s a real gift when two actors work together enough to develop the chemistry that Farmiga and Wilson share. They’ve been making these movies together for almost a decade, and it shows! We feel the love these two characters share. Again, without spoiling much, I will just say that love is the absolute crux on which this movie rests. It does a much better job at conveying real love, real connection than we get in a lot of other movies. Especially in horror movies, sometimes love feels like a thing characters say but don’t show. Here, we are witness to one of the strongest loves in cinematic history. Wilson and Farmiga do SO MUCH to show us the connection these two characters share. And when we’re finally given some of their back story, it only serves to crystalize what they hold between them.

So, big question here, and I’m sure everybody is asking this: Will I like The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It? Well, I did. While our tastes may differ, and I can’t speak to yours, I will say this: If you’ve returned to this franchise time and again because of the characters, then you will love this movie. It’s always a gamble. This is now the fourth movie that Ed and Lorraine are onscreen together. It could’ve gone either way! They could miss a step, or we could read the fatigue, but none of that happens here. In place of all the mistakes this thing could’ve made, we’re left with a story that does genuine justice to the legacy of what came before it.

The Conjuring The Devil Made Me Do It 2021

The Conjuring franchise has eight movies now. Eight! Some of those, if we’re being honest, feel a little tacked on. Some of them have a tenuous-at-best connection to the rest. But this one, the third to bear the Conjuring title, feels completely of a piece with its two predecessors. There are tons of fun ways the movie relates to the rest of the series. At one point, Ed says to another character “Come over to our house for dinner, we’ll introduce you to Annabelle.” Instead of feeling like an “Easter egg,” it just serves to illustrate that these movies are all continuing the same story. They’re all segments of the same tapestry. It’s not fan service, it’s the truth of these people.

I’d love to spoil all of this and get super in-the-weeds about the story and everything that happens and what it means for the future of the franchise. But this bad boy has only been out for 4 days. The fact that it’s on a streaming service (HBO Max here in the states), complicates the release. I’m sure there are people who would love to see it but are as of yet unable. So I will end by saying this… This movie loves the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren. If you love those characters too, it will feel like a wonderful reunion, and a genuinely great addition to their story.

Have you seen The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It yet? What’d you think? Were you disappointed, or did it exceed your expectations? I’d love to know! Reach out to me on Twitter (@billreick) with your thoughts, or, feel free to email me (billreick@gmail.com)! This is one of my favorite franchises, and I’d really look forward to connecting with other fans over the material. Thanks for stopping by and reading my thoughts!

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