Horror franchises aren't something this world is lacking - but quality horror franchises? Well, that's a whole other ballgame. In 2013, 'The Conjuring' changed what horror would like for the 2010s and birthed one of the most successful horror franchises of all time. It was a phenomenon, with cinemas in the U.S. having priests at screenings blessing guests after the film, Annabelle became an instant horror icon up there with 'Chucky', 'Michael Myers' and 'Pennywise', and studios took note of the US$319.5 million at the global box office and 86% Rotten Tomatoes score. Horror was back. 'The Conjuring' not only worked due to the fact it wasn't a jump scare found footage-filled film like others that dominated at the time, but because at its core was the love that paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren have for each other. Now, just under a decade into 'The Conjuring' Universe and eight films in, the main franchise is starting to show fatigue.
Ed (Patrick Wilson, 'Aquaman', 'Insidious') and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga, 'Godzilla: King of Monsters', 'The Front Runner') are called to the Glatzel house as their youngest son, David (Julian Hilliard, Disney+'s 'Wandavision', Netflix's 'The Haunting of Hill House') is possessed. But this isn't any normal possession - everything feels off, but eventually the demon leaves. But this is only due to David older brother, Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor, 'Handsome Devil', 'Teen Spirit'), asking the demon to leave his brother alone and it possesses him instead. This leads Arne to murder his landlord and plead not guilty by demonic possession. The Warrens are tasked with proving Arne's innocence, leading them to their most challenging investigation yet.
This is the first film out of the three 'Conjuring' films not to have James Wan directing - and from the get-go, you can tell his presence is missing. Michael Chaves, who directed 'The Curse of the Weeping Woman', has taken the helm, and while he does a fine job, it just misses that polish that Wan brings. 'The Conjuring 2', simply put, is my favourite horror movie all time, not only because of its scares but just the whole ambience of the film. As a follow-up to that film, 'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It' is disappointing, offering just another entry in 'The Conjuring' universe. It's a fine addition, but it feels more like the franchise spin-offs and not the main vein of the series.
With 'The Conjuring', we got Annabelle. With 'The Conjuring 2', we got Valak. 'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It' gives us... a skinny tall white witch lady... and a gross naked zombie man. To say the horror "creatures" are lacking from the newest entry is an understatement, leading to a lot of the scares not landing the way they did in previous films. It seems like they've deliberately held back on the horror this time around, which was disappointing.
This is the first film out of the three 'Conjuring' films not to have James Wan directing - and from the get-go, you can tell his presence is missing.
While all these films push the "based on a true story" limits, this film feels very disjointed from the real case. The idea of someone in a court of law trying to prove themselves not guilty due to demonic possession could lead to really compelling film, but as soon as the initial case is started the film just becomes an average horror film. Even the subtitle 'The Devil Made Me Do It' - what the case was called in real life - is never uttered in the film. The film also takes place in 1981 and does very little with its setting; unlike the other two 'Conjuring' entries, there isn't much creativity with the setting.
The Warrens themselves also feel less needed - Ed especially. They are too often in the background watching things unfold. A lot of the new actors are engaging, especially Arne, but the Warrens are the heart of this franchise and it seems like we miss out on a lot of time with them.
'The Conjuring' has well and truly passed its small horror beginnings, becoming the leading modern horror franchise - and 'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It' is the perfect illustration of that. It's just another entry, something to hold people over until the next one. While, especially after 'The Conjuring 2', it's a letdown, this film is still leaps and bounds better than not only the 'Annabelle' films, but a lot of other horror out there.