The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) movie review
The third in the Conjuring series, The Devil Made Me Do It follows the Warrens as they take on the defense of a young man who commits a murder after being possessed by a demon. The film was released this past weekend and, despite sharing a simultaneous release on HBO Max, managed to come in at #1 at the US Box Office over holdovers Quiet Place Part II and Cruella. That said, despite a fairly decent $24 million opening weekend, the film has received the lowest critical reception of the three Conjuring films.
I feel like the earlier Conjuring 3 could have released the better. All three films feel a little behind the curve, despite helping solidify that curve. However while the first film feels like it was only four years late, this one feels like it’s around thirty years too late. Okay maybe eight years too late. Either way, The Devil Made Me Do It is all-around disappointing, from the try-hard ideas to be different to not having James Wan direct. However it isn’t horrible, so if you’ve seen the first two and have two hours to kill, you could do worse.
Now if you haven’t seen the trailer and want to go into the film as blind as possible- well you probably shouldn’t be reading a review on it actually. However to talk about the story I do have to get into a little bit more of said story. No spoilers, but there aren’t really spoilers to give away anyway… Okay moving on!
So The Conjuring 3 takes the Warrens out of their comfort zone a little, with a Satanist as the key antagonist instead of a demon. The danger of this is taking away the comfort zone in which these films operate. However this film COULD have a good thing going for it. First, it was genuinely compelling to see the Warrens dealing with something outside their field of expertise. It puts the audience and the protagonists in the same boat, so to speak. However the film has another issue that takes the forefront: It has no idea what it wants to be.
Conjuring 3 starts really strong with a cold open that sets up the story very well. However once we get past the murder, the focus shifts from the family to the Warrens; something the other two films was careful with. The emotional connection can be made with the Warrens instead of the family, but there is certainly less weight to the plot when you know they will be fine because neither of them died in the 80s or whenever these take place. Then we take a hard left into a courtroom drama! For one scene… Then another left into an investigative thriller where the Warrens are detectives. This is where the film lost me.
What could have made the film considerably more interesting is just going all-in on the cult aspect. The first Annabelle (2014) did it (at least for the set-up), and cults are not only fairly big right now, but really scary. Not to mention it would continue the exploration of the unknown for the Warrens. I feel safe saying that the audiences in these films feel like they have a good knowledge of demons by now (at least as far as the lore in these films go), so introducing a more grounded threat could deliver some real scares! But no, murder mystery for a murder that doesn’t really matter to the main story? What’s fine too I guess…
Speaking of James Wan not directing, gone are the wonderful long takes and brilliant atmospheric tension building from the first two films! There are a few wonderful shots in this movie that I give plenty of credit to DP Michael Burgess for! But he’s no John R. Leonetti, or even Don Burgess. That said, the performances were a highlight. Everyone in the film does a very good job, with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson at their best. Of course if helps that, despite a very weak story, the character development building from the first film on hasn’t been more interesting than this film. I call this the Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) effect.
However I have to go back to something that really breaks this film: It’s not scary. It’s not even a very impactful horror film. The lack of a motivation for the antagonist really hurts the momentum of the story, the finale cheats its way out of smart character choices, and the moments that do try to be scary aren’t even that unique. This is where I miss the demons. Sure I guess a living corpse is creepy, but it’s no huge threat. Plus the film uses it twice. TWICE. So yeah, not a scary movie. There are a few visual callbacks to other horror movies that I loved! Until it made me want to watch those instead…
So if you are curious if this series is worth watching, maybe just watch the first two. The second one is really worth it, as it manages to keep a balance of story and characters and scare and intrigue just so impressively! The third one though? No such luck. It tries for a different approach, but lands on a rather dull tone for a majority of the film, with a lackluster finish to round out an uneventful experience. It’s not scary either… So if you want to watch a Conjuring film for the character development, by all means! But it’s just not the best this series could have given us. 5/10.
So The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It? Wait, except it isn’t even the Devil… So The Conjuring: A Satanist Made Me Do it! Did you watch it yet? What did you think? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you like this review and you want to read more like it, be sure to check out our other reviews from The Conjuring series! Or let us know what else we should talk about! Should we do the Annabelle films next? Just leave a comment and consider it done!
-review by Ryan Prince