Directed By Michael Chaves
Starring – Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’ Connor
The Plot – A chilling story of terror, murder and unknown evil that shocked even experienced real-life paranormal investigators Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Farmiga). One of the most sensational cases from their files, it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy (O’Connor), then takes them beyond anything they’d ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.
Rated R for terror, violence and some disturbing images.
– Loveable leads. A majority of the driving force that has steered this franchise through three passing efforts is the dynamic between Ed and Lorraine that supplants a balance of heart and personality to their respective roles. Because of such, at its very core, The Conjuring movies are love stories posing as horror films, further fleshing out the insatiable chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga that not only makes their union believable, but also feel completely lived-in to the emotional resonance of the narrative. In addition to this, the film illustrates the magnitude of their powers with a previously unforeseen vulnerability for their ensuing aging dynamic, thus leaving them often fighting against the onslaught of matters that occasionally feel out of their control throughout this film. In addition to the Warren’s, it’s Ruairi O’ Connor’s turn as the tried and troubled young adult that continued the air of commitment from tortured protagonists, offering a lot of similarities to Ed and Lorraine’s relationship with a young love of his own cementing a tragedy to the story that inevitably draws audiences to the dreaded disposition that he shares with that of his loving girlfriend (Played by Sarah Catherine Hook).
– Expansive setting. As to where the other Conjuring films mostly persist with a one location setting that harvests unsettling claustrophobia, “The Devil Made Me Do It” breaks down the walls, literally and figuratively, with a geographic spontaneity that brings forth its own benefits to this particular story. First off, the variety of sinister set pieces, capturing a varying volume of creativity associated with the elments of environment that Chaves plays off of accordingly. In addition to this, the vast setting also attains a level of cultural influence for the conflict that other films couldn’t capture because of the only characters involved being the ones that lived and breathed inside of the house. This allows the idea of good and evil to resonate on a global scale, complete with perceptions and difficulties associated with having to prove something that not everyone sees or believes in.
– A New direction. James Wan’s stepping down was my biggest concern to a franchise that he himself made famous for gripping, intense atmosphere that refused to settle for cheap jump scares of the predictable variety. However, Michael Chaves not only maintains competent hands throughout a majority of the narrative, but also produces with it some of the more stylistic visuals and photographic feats that this once intimate franchise wasn’t always privy to. Chaves calls on cinematographer Michael Burgess to prescribe ambition to the film’s visual storytelling, complete with these wondrous establishing shots through various settings, and long take sequences in and out of hallways and corridors that play into audience investment while challenging them with swift movements along the way. There are problems with the consistency of the atmosphere, which I will eventually get to, but considering Chaves is the same man who helmed the dramatically underwhelming “The Curse of La Llorona” and only short films previously, his touch with “The Devil Made Me Do It” speaks volumes to the evolution that he has achieved as a helming hand, and certainly has me curious for what he attaches his name to next.
– Production value. The newest Conjuring installment, like the previous two, is also a slice of timely resonance made apparent by some brilliant brushes of creativity that capture a particular essence about a place in time. Now in the 80’s, the film brings along with it a solid soundtrack with decorated artists like Eddie Money, Van Morrison, and especially Blondie, whose track “Call Me” allows her lyrics about desperation to be seen in an entirely new light for a younger generation. Also enhancing believability are the areas of set design and even wardrobe that speak volumes to a southern setting, all the while persisting without an element of oversaturation to their captivation. It’s a visual parody done accordingly and sporadically without the over-indulgence that the film could easily allow itself to get lost in if its inclusions became too tedious or obvious in the depiction of its documentation. It’s the right kind of timely channeling that brings out the best in its budget, and gives The Conjuring films a historical quality that further plays into the legacy of its leads.
– Evading tropes. There are a couple of examples in this area that I was most pleasantly surprised by, but one that stands out above the rest in twenty-first century context. I am of course talking about the expert supporting character who protagonists often turn towards to seek credible information about their adversary. Usually, it’s unknown how such a character attains such knowledge and lives to tell about it, but here that character is brilliantly tweaked to attain matters in a way that is not only easy to sync up accordingly, but also grants his character depth with regards to his link to the ensuing madness. I personally enjoyed this particular touch in valued long-winded exposition that not only conveys realism in terms of why a character would choose to live in a place with such unspoken evil, but also in the weathered delivery from credible film veteran John Noble that speaks volumes to the psychology of his character on the subject that lands the Warren’s on his doorstep.
– Riveting twists. No, this isn’t with the story itself, but rather with the physical depths of the actors in frame that elevate believability in the context of each frame. There are two moments that I point to in this film, one practical and one special effects, that captivated my experience and illustrated the threat of possession better than almost any other movie before it. Without spoiling much, one revolves around a little boy in the opening ten minutes of the film, complete with computer generation that didn’t look obvious or condescending to the integrity of the sequence. Likewise, the practical capabilities of one particular male actor late in the film gave the sound design a justifiable emphasis in its outline of his bodily movements, moving in a way that felt anything other than human with respect to the contortion that he was able to magnificently pull off.
– Bait and switch. One side effect to losing Wan to the third chapter in his Conjuring trilogy is the absence of atmospheric tension that often underscored much of the effectiveness of the film in terms of earned frights. Ominousness is traded in for timely and predictable jump scares, which are a complete stranger to the duo of Conjuring films that predated this one, brilliant sound mixing outlining a haunting presence lurking in the shadows is exchanged for watered down color correction, and the unnecessary use of computer generation during one particular cliffside scene had this film looking the cheapest despite its budget being nearly identical to the second installment, and doubling that of the 2013 original. These are the biggest elements of distraction to my immersive benefit towards the film, and ones that often had it feeling like a soulless shell of itself that played more towards contemporary perception of what a horror movie should be, over a historically proven contradiction.
– Convoluted plot. Considering the abundance of story and thematic angles that the true story inspiring the film supplants, the result of its execution left entirely too much to be desired. It’s expected that a majority of our story would follow Ed and Lorraine as they navigate their search for the truth, but not at the expense of the possessed protagonist hanging in the balance. It’s a bit irresponsible of the movie’s marketing to sell this as a courtroom drama because there are two scenes in the entire film taking place in the courtroom, in turn outlining a missed opportunity that could’ve been like “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, with regards to deviating from possession films conventionalism. The meat left on the bone outlines a story far too repetitive and derivative of better Conjuring films to justify its place among them, stitching with it a problematic pacing that wears the luggage of its miles late in the movie’s second act.
– Heavy dialogue. Aside from the fact that there is far too much going on here to keep a much needed focus on every element stitched into the fabric of this movie’s creativity, the lines spoken between characters was every bit generically bland and forgettable as it was on-the-nose to keep audiences registering the barrage of angles that the story was constantly throwing at us. One element to previous Conjuring movies that is the soul between Ed and Lorraine’s warm-hearted interactions is the importance in banter between them that brings forth some much-needed levity to the circumstance of the horrors surrounding it. Unfortunately here, there are things delivered, especially from Lorraine, that doesn’t feel synthetic with everything we’ve learned and appreciated about the nuances of the character, hitting us with an off-screen influence of authenticity that even the charms of Farmiga can’t fully escape.
– Underwhelming format. For my money, this third installment of the film would’ve been better appreciated as a 6-8 episode miniseries, especially considering the abundance of underdeveloped subplots that come and go with very little satisfying resolve. Especially considering the film begins with a prologue that puts us right in the moment of the primary movements of the story right before us, persists with a middle that sifts through a buffet of respective characters and developments, and then ends with an epilogue teasing future prospects for the Conjuring universe, this film just fell essentially flat for the big screen emphasis that the other films (Even the spin-off ones) didn’t have to waste time trying to exude. With more time and development allowed, these ingredients could’ve better accentuated the impact of the main plot tying each of them together, and would’ve assisted in keeping the burden of weight off of the Warren’s that they’ve had to carry through three different films.
My Grade: 6/10 or C