It takes less than 5 minutes for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the third franchise installment and eighth Conjuring Universe film, to jump full force into a vicious demonic possession scene involving a contorting young boy and a few obvious nods to The Exorcist. Fighting the forces of evil again, looking more withered and worn from their many encounters with malevolent spirits, are Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). The loving staples of The Conjuring films find themselves in new territory with their latest case.
During the exorcism of young David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), Ed and Lorraine struggle with the ferocity of the evil spirit and lose control of the situation. Ed is hurt, Lorraine is affected by a vision, and Arne Johnson (Ruairi O'Conner), the boyfriend of David's older sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook), demands that the entity "take me instead." The demon abides, and the tormenting subsides; the Glatzel family believes that the exorcism worked. But slowly, Arne begins to experience strange occurrences, leading to an encounter that results in the brutal murder of his landlord. Arne, and The Warrens, take the case to the courts claiming that the incident was perpetrated under the circumstance of demonic possession.
The story for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is pulled from The Warren's case files and, as all the films proclaim, is "based on a true story." However, where this film differs from the first two arrives with the composition of frights and the story's tone. The previous emphasis on the haunted house atmosphere and the case-specific scenarios that assisted in adding another level of fear surrounding the proceedings are not the focus of this film.
Instead, director Michael Chaves composes a procedural, an investigation into the circumstances that brought about the real-life court case for Arne Johnson and a fictional story surrounding The Warren's ghost-hunting drama. Chaves doesn't explore the components of the court case, mainly because the actual plea of "not guilty because of demonic possession" was immediately thrown out by the presiding judge. However, the intrigue of a courtroom drama with The Warrens involved and the prevailing media hype in the early 1980s would be an exciting place to take the Conjuring Universe.
The fictional pieces crafted for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which offer a few jump scares but are the weakest offerings of the franchise, take Ed and Lorraine into numerous locations while following the clues of a curse connected to Arne. During these moments, which feel farthest from the grounded nature of the previous films, the story finds mixed results with character dynamics and scare tactics. A relationship with a local police detective, who is working on a cold case, feels unnecessary and somewhat forced for humor. A trip to the local morgue builds some great tension and finds an avenue to connect the story from one act to the next. Everything moves along, primarily because of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson's chemistry and commitment as Lorraine and Ed, but it's a bumpier journey than expected.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It may not reach the heights of its predecessors in regards to style, scares, and storytelling, but that doesn't mean fans of this frightening franchise won't enjoy the efforts on display.
Movie Score: 2.5/5