The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Review – A Mixed Detour from Franchise Tradition

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‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’, otherwise known as ‘The Conjuring 3’, was released on the 4th of June 2021. For the third instalment of ‘The Conjuring’ series and eighth within its cinematic universe, Ed and Lorraine Warren return once more to solve a paranormal case, involving the true tales of David Glatzel and late Arne Johnson.

The production of this much-awaited movie was heavily speculated over. Firstly, Michael Chaves took over direction from James Wan, who was bound by a scheduling conflict. The news of directorial changes was met with apprehension, with audiences interested to see how Chaves continued the well-known horror franchise. The aim of the film, Chaves explained, was to “blow the doors off the haunted house experience and take the Warrens out into the world”.

As is the case with the other films in the series, ‘The Conjuring 3’ is based on a true story, surrounding the murder case of Arne Johnson in Connecticut in 1981 and the book on the trial, Gerald Brittle’s ‘The Devil in Connecticut’. Yet, unlike the other two ‘Conjuring’ films, this one strays quite a way from the truth of the story, focusing more on the background and investigation process than the actual case, which is reduced to a formality. The possession of David Glatzel is supposedly true, with the end of the film containing real recordings from the 1981 Warrens’ case. This addition of real footage, similarly to the other ‘Conjuring’ movies, adds to the haunting atmosphere as demonic activity becomes less elusive through ‘proof’. Further realism is provided through the inclusion of Arne Johnson, with the film title originating from his actual trial, although details, like the name of his victim, were changed in the script. However, despite truth forming the basis of the film, a lot of it was exacerbated for theatrical effect, like the defence (used by Johnson’s lawyers) of demonic possession, which was permitted in the film but rejected in real life.

The film itself contains a mix of jump scares and psychological horror, as well as an unexpected twist towards the end. There is a constant build of tension throughout, with the chaos of the film and character experiences adding to this. The initial opening of the film demonstrates bodily horror, with the contortion of David during the first exorcism acting as a shocking and gory opener. The film contains many red herrings and subplots throughout, taking new angles in an attempt to throw off successful predictions.

The film has received mixed reviews, achieving only 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, but a higher score of 6.3 on IMDb. Critics have targeted its lack of dread with the Johnson case becoming more of an afterthought than a focus. However, the film does provide more of a background into the all-allusive artefact room. Some praised the performance of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga and enjoyed the in-depth look into their relationship, while others have slated it for straying from the tone of the previous two films.

The slow burn horror of the first two instalments is swapped out for jump scares and occultism, taking a somewhat disappointing diversion from the franchise’s established name. The demonic spirit is side-lined in the development of the movie, with Ed and Lorraine becoming the main focus. However, despite criticism, for some this relationship development creates a long-awaited insight into the lives of the Warrens, offering a welcome change from the constant horror of the franchise as the partially revealed relationship is explored in deserved detail.

Although very different from its predecessors, ‘The Conjuring 3’ certainly has its own merits; exploring new forms of horror within the franchise and developing more of a background into the two well-known investigators. Yet, the question has to be asked, will they continue producing these films until all of Ed and Lorraine’s cases are on display? With a fourth ‘Conjuring’ film being rumoured, the series looks likely to be extended indefinitely as Warner Bros pulls all the money possible from the franchise. 

Is this at the loss of quality? The ‘Conjuring’ movies have been highly rated within the horror genre, each addition creating a deviation into a new realm of horror; ‘The Conjuring 3’ is a small part of something bigger. Perhaps in ‘The Conjuring 4’, we will see a return to the original horror of the initial film. Or maybe this new angle is the future of the franchise, Ed and Lorraine taking back the stories from the spirits and telling the truth in their own words.

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