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Review: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

Directed by: Michael Chaves

Premise: The third film in The Conjuring series. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) assist in the defense of a young man who committed murder while possessed.

What Works: The Conjuring franchise consists of the three titular entries as well as a web of spinoff titles including Annabelle, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona. While the series has been very successful and offered an alternative model for franchise building, on the whole The Conjuring series has been mostly mediocre. The Devil Made Me Do It is among the better entries in this franchise. The three flagship Conjuring films are much better than the spinoffs and much of that has to do with the central relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Devil Made Me Do It focuses on the Warrens and emphasizes Ed and Lorraine as a married couple. This humanizes the characters and invests us in their fate. Supernatural horror stories can sometimes be too ambiguous but in The Devil Made Me Do It the Warrens face a more concrete adversary than the evil specters they have faced before. This raises the stakes and makes everything much more exciting. The third Conjuring film also steps up the visual style. Some of the other Conjuring pictures tended to look murky but The Devil Made Me Do It uses darkness and silhouette in ways that creates a sense of dread while keeping the action intelligible.

What Doesn’t: While it does some interesting things visually, The Devil Made Me Do It isn’t so refined in its use of sound. There is a difference between being sonically intense and merely loud and The Devil Made Me Do It veers toward the latter. The soundtrack is very blunt and includes lots of crashes and stingers. It comes across desperate and plays counterproductively. The sound mix is sometimes muddled with the dialogue buried beneath the music and sound effects. The Devil Made Me Do It rips off a lot of other movies. The opening nods to The Exorcist and the picture replicates the waterbed gag from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. It’s fun to spot the references but these homages come across as fan service and little else. A similar problem is found throughout The Conjuring series and in The Devil Made Me Do It in particular. The film uses religious imagery in a superficial way. Unlike The Exorcist which explored the mystery of faith and the nature of good and evil, The Conjuring films do not possess any deeper meaning. That superficial subtext comes to the surface in The Devil Made Me Do It; when the motives of the evildoer are interrogated, the question itself is dismissed outright.

Bottom Line: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is arguably the best film of this franchise. The technical qualities are a mixed bag of interesting visuals and obnoxious sound design. But this story offers something a little more interesting than most other installments of this series.

Episode: #855 (June 13, 2021)