“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sterling Jerins, Julian Hilliard, Sarah Catherine Hook, Charlene Amoia, and Ruairi O’Connor. Released on June 4, 2021, the film has Ed and Lorraine Warren taking on their most challenging case.
The film was directed by Michael Chaves, who also directed “The Curse of La Llorona”, and it is the eighth installment in The Conjuring Universe franchise. The Warrens have faced many creepy scenarios during their careers as paranormal investigators, with some being scarier than the last. This one, in particular, managed to blow the others out of the spirit realm. After four years of experiencing the mediocre spin-offs of one of the best recent horror films of the past decade, we have finally returned to the frightening world of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Similar to the previous films, this latest chapter in the core “Conjuring” series is based on the Warrens’ real-life paranormal case. But this wasn’t just any other case. This case was extra special, and by that, I mean extra terrifying. It involved the infamous murder trial in 1981 that marked the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect claimed demonic possession as a defense. Do you feel terrified yet? You will be once you researched it for yourself as I did. I enjoyed the past two “Conjuring” films by James Wan for their atmospheric tension and scares, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t explore this haunting case. Unfortunately, the horror filmmaker isn’t back to direct this chapter, but he is back as the producer. That role goes to Michael Chaves, who is coming off of his directorial debut with “The Curse of La Llorona” two years ago, which I thought was pretty bad. That fact alone is enough to put a damper on my high expectations, but knowing me, I always give first-time directors a chance to redeem themselves, and Chaves is no exception. With that in mind, let’s see if this chapter is as petrifying as the demonic case itself.
The film once again follows the actual events of Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Farmiga), the husband-wife duo who investigate the supernatural. Their latest case takes them to Connecticut, where a young man named Arne Cheyenne Johnson (O’Connor) is accused of murder. He claimed that he was possessed by a demon, forcing the Warrens to go beyond what they experienced to prove his innocence and save his soul. “The Devil Made Me Do It” shifts away from the haunted house element that its predecessors were known for in favor of a horror investigation plot. It does include the “exorcism in the house” sequence at the beginning, like the first film, but other than that, it’s an entirely new direction for the main “Conjuring” films. I didn’t mind this strategy as long as it maintains the strengths that made both “The Conjuring” and its sequel riveting and spine-tingling, which are atmosphere, scares, and nightmarish visuals that’ll make viewers sleep with the lights on. “The Devil Made Me Do It” offered precisely that, but they fell short of what James Wan delivered in its predecessors. The story wasn’t too bad as it provided some engaging tension, creepy production designs, and tolerable characters. Plus, it managed to be shorter than “The Conjuring 2”. Unfortunately, the stakes presented here failed to be as frightening or as convincing as its previous outing. It came off as another average horror storyline that appeared to be a bit more far-fetched compared to its predecessors, which effectively combined realism with paranormal elements. Wilson and Farmiga continued to provide some solid performances as Ed and Lorraine, respectively, and Ruairi O’Connor made a suitable impression onscreen as Arne. I liked the performances in the last two “Conjuring” films because they have that sense of anxiety that made their characters feel helpless and frightened. They were scared by the unexpected and uncertain about whether they’ll survive or not, which helped made the viewers feel the same way. Obviously, the cast in “The Devil Made Me Do It” is no different. As someone who doesn’t like “La Llorona”, I think Michael Chaves deserved a pat on the back for attempting to carry the “Conjuring” legacy that James Wan started, even though the final result is far from perfect. Chaves managed to maintain some of the strengths provided by its predecessors, most notably the jump scares. Not only were they appropriately used, but they’re also quite terrifying. The production designs were also nicely handled as they captured the sense of being in an atmospheric nightmare. Although, I do feel that the sets in the previous “Conjuring” films were more effective than the ones here.
Overall, “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is a tolerable and creepy follow-up that once again delivers the atmosphere and frights. However, it lacked the high-stakes emotion that its predecessors provided to make this case a success. The film has plenty of moments that horror fans and “Conjuring” fans alike will enjoy, such as the performances, production designs, and well-earned scares. But I can agree that this was weaker than the last two in terms of story and lack of everlasting unnerving-ness. I will also agree that Chaves has made a better horror movie than “La Llorona”, and I hope he keeps that streak going with his next film.