CONJURING, THE: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT
(director/writer: Micael Chaves; screenwriters: story by James Wan & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick/David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick; cinematographer: Michael Burgess; editors: Peter Gvozdas, Christian Wager; music: Joseph Bishera; cast: Patrick Wilson (Ed Warren), Vera Farmiga (Lorraine Warren), Ruairi O’Connor(Arne Chevenne Johnson), Sarah Catherine Hook (Debbie Glatzel), Julian Hilliard (David), John Noble (Kastner), Eugenie Bondurant (occultist), Charlene Amoia (Judy Glatzel), Ashley LeConte Campbell (Meryl, lawyer), Steve Coulter (Father Gordon); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Peter Safran/James Wan; Warner Bros./New Line/HBO Max; 2021)
“I think I would have puked if I took this garbage seriously.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Michael Chaves (“Curse of La Llorona”) directs this chilling but unfocused horror story from the semi-popular mystery series, in which this is the third leg of the trilogy (the 8th film in the larger series) and the worst of the 3 films. Chaves co-writes it with James Wan (the director of the first two Conjuring films in the trilogy) and the book’s author David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. The plot is filled with Christian dogma, as God battles the forces of Satanic evil for control of the world.
It’s based on the 1981 case of the tree-doctor Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), the first American to claim demonic possession as his reason for committing murder.
The deeply spiritual Roman Catholic paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a real couple, now deceased, fictionalized in parts for the movie, are in Brookfield, Connecticut to help a family whose adolescent boy, David (Julian Hilliard), finds his body contorted in an unnatural positions and whose voice now sounds really weird, as if he’s in Linda Blair’s The Exorcist flick.
The couple perform an exorcism in the child’s house, in which the demon leaps into the body of the 19-year-old Arne, the boyfriend of the kid’s sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook). Arne’s now supposedly possessed by the Devil, and he later will stab his landlord (his girlfriend’s boss) 22 times to death. That takes care of the true part of this strange tale, as the Warrens for the remainder of the film (with the help of a retired priest (John Noble) recognized as a researcher of the occult and an occultist (Eugenie Bondurant)) will try to prove that Arne is not guilty by reason of demonic possession and they work with a lawyer (Ashley LeConte Campbell) willing to argue that in court.
In the embellished story, the film loses its grip on reality, entertainment value and good storytelling with overwrought set-pieces.
We watch Lorraine, a psychic, witness past crimes as she goes into a self-induced trance to see if other bizarre murders of the period were Satanic.
The psychic aids the defense lawyer’s case with occult evidence and gets the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter than a murder charge, and the killer receives a laughable light five-year prison sentence for such a brutal crime (I guess because the Devil made him do it he’s not fully responsible).
The lesson here is that it might be better not to attend exorcisms in person, because you never know what the Devil will do if he catches you there.
When the flick gets sappy over the married paranormal investigators and that it’s their love for each other that gives them their power over the Devil, I think I would have puked if I took this garbage seriously.
Character actor John Noble has a creepy turn as a retired priest, whose collection of evil incidents can match the Warrens’ own.
REVIEWED ON 6/7/2021 GRADE: C-