I can believe this movie is of diabolical origin, as it is devilishly unoriginal and dull.
The third film in the Conjuring main series, and the 8th film in the larger Conjuring franchise, shows its age early. When it’s not grabbing bits from better horror movies, it’s puttering around with the same, tired jump-scares that I had hoped died a natural death of old age in the 2000’s. The one original idea it has, of staging a criminal trial where the Warrens can finally convince anyone rational that their supernatural hokum is real, it wastes. It is a long, meandering, slog of a film that fails to show you anything you haven’t seen before.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)
One of the most sensational cases from the files of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then takes them beyond anything they’d ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.
Getting the BS Out of the Way.
If you are not familiar with the Warrens in general and this case in particular, here’s a short summary: Ed and Lorraine are a married couple who perform “paranormal investigations.” That’s in quotes because, depending on the case, their versions of events don’t always line up with what others report. The Arne Johnson case this movie is loosely based on is no exception, with members of the “possessed” boys family at odds over the dramatic version presented by the Warrens and others.
It’s hard to know how to grapple with movies like The Conjuring series. They, and their ilk, love to flog the “based on actual events!” tagline for all of its credulous glory. It’s deceptive advertising of the most egregious sort. I don’t honestly think it should be allowed. If a delusional or dishonest person tells you Godzilla lives in their basement, you don’t get to hype the next Godzilla movie as “based on actual events”!
The Conjuring 3, in particular, is a pretty blatant example of the studio dramatizing and exaggerating a story that was already dramatized and exaggerated in the first place. I especially love how they end the movie with it looking like the Warrens saved the day and Arne may go free…until the credits roll with a disclaimer that the poor schmuck went to jail anyway…and even THAT is an omission. The Warrens’ claim of demonic possession was promptly laughed out of court. So we have a movie about the Warrens going on a spooky, fictional adventure to prove a possession that the judge already set GTFO to. That’s priceless bullshittery right there.
But It Gets Worse.
So, upfront I think the movie is disingenuous garbage adapting the ravings of a couple of attention seeking crackpots. But how is it as a movie?
The opening sequence is such a generic exorcism bit that it makes me want to roll my eyes harder than the possessed boy. Its so formulaic you can see everything coming from a mile away. It’s such a mash of better exorcism scenes/movies that it becomes more fun to figure out who they’re stealing from in each instance than to actually watch the scene for any artistic merit.
From there we get a tease of a police procedural as Ed and Lorraine try to figure out why such a normal family is suddenly passing around a demon possession like a game of hot potato. They go all Mulder and Scully on the case, eventually tracking the possession back to wily witch. The film tries to whip up a satanic panic about murderous satanists randomly cursing people to
own the libs instill fear and chaos in the faithful in such a hamfisted and melodramatic manner that I shut the film and walked away.
I shouldn’t have come back.
No Redeeming Features.
The more time you spend with this film, the more of a disappointment it becomes. I initially like the police procedural, but it gets very dumb, very fast, and morphs into a Scooby Doo episode. I guess Arne isn’t all that important when we could watch The Conjuring try to valorize Ed and Lorraine’s cooky supernatural shenanigans instead. As for Ed and Lorraine, I initially like Wilson and Farmiga’s performances. They’ve been these characters in enough movies that they do come off as a likable, old married couple. Then we get nonsense like all of Lorraine’s psychic hullabaloo, culminating in her playacting out an unsolved murder. It was so cringe inducing, I shut the movie and walked away for a second time.
It took an inhuman act of personal sacrifice for me to fire this film up a third time and watch the ending. We get a silly villain reveal (which is almost certainly meant to bait out another spin-off,) another lame exorcism so the director can steal the same bone-snapping/contortionist body horror of the last dozen lame exorcism movies, and then the wet fart ending where the movie tries very, very hard to not admit that Ed and Lorraine are spectacular failures when it comes to actually helping anyone who calls on them.
Then Lorraine gets a gazebo, and the movie ends.
With a gazebo.