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"The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" (2021) A Satanically Exorcised Movie Review

This subtitle honestly makes me think of a little kid getting in trouble a Catholic school so they come up with an excuse why they hit their pal Jimmy.

This subtitle honestly makes me think of a little kid getting in trouble a Catholic school so they come up with an excuse why they hit their pal Jimmy.

The WB/HBO Max Deal Is a Crock

At this point, I’m convinced that this whole Warner Bros. deal to release all their 2021 titles onto HBO Max and theaters simultaneously was a frikkin’ scam. Why do I say this? Because almost every single release from WB for the last six months are mainly comprised of disappointing, middle of the road schlock. As though the producers knew for a fact none of their productions were going to receive good enough word of mouth to get people out to the theaters again, so they dumped their sh*t onto streaming in a desperate effort to squeeze some money out of them. Almost nothing released under Warner has been remotely all that noteworthy in either a good or bad direction, just barely meeting the standard of sort of passable entertainment at best. After having my expectations up fairly high only to crash with mediocre quality so much, I’ve begun to grow rather f*cking irritated with this cycle of disappointment.

Was there the occasional WB feature since December that stood out among the rest that I enjoyed? Yes. I enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Locked Down, and The Little Things. Nothing necessarily great, but still good. From there things get spotty; Tom & Jerry I had a little fun with, despite knowing it wasn’t very good. Judas and the Black Messiah was a movie trying to be a ‘70s undercover thriller throwback like BlacKkKlansman while not being nearly as suspenseful nor provocative, although Daniel Kaluuya was great in it. Godzilla vs. Kong had cool action inside a lifeless shell of a movie with zilch in the way of character. The Mortal Kombat reboot was an onslaught of exposition and exhausting action, admittedly the fight choreography along with the gory special effects were good, but I was depressingly bored. Those Who Wish Me Dead was a standard flatline of a Taylor Sheridan script that focuses too much on the most stereotypical “damaged hero seeking redemption by protecting a kid” tropes we’ve seen several times over while criminally ignoring a genuinely engaging character played by Jon Bernthal.

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Did Conjuring 3 Make the Cut?

Now after all these months of viewing letdown after letdown, we find ourselves at the premiere of The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It. A movie that I, yet again, had high hopes for while feeling cautiously optimistic because of the track record thus far. Did we finally get a great movie from WB’s “generous” unorthodox releases? No. The answer is still no. We’re stuck in this endless cycle of promising potential which succumbs to underwhelming standards. God f*cking damn it!

I apologize, this is not how I typically write a review for any film that’s simply “fine,” but I am so ungodly frustrated with seeing all these movies by WB treated as though no one gave a crap! Did anyone care? Anyone? Anyone at all? Was there anyone writing these movies that cared to leave any sort of impression? Even a bad impression?! Any material at all, including bad material, would have been better than the safely bland and forgettable experiences that we’ve been getting lately. I want to feel something when I watch a film. Be it happy, sad, mad, scared, excited, what have you. Films need to bring me to life somehow, I’m tired of being left totally empty and unfulfilled by these lifeless scripts that do literally nothing for me. DO SOMETHING. Stop being afraid to be a little bold, please, I’m begging you. Make a God damn movie and not another product filling the gaps between releases, you con artist mother f*ckers!

That request is directed towards the individuals currently running the show at Warner Bros. I’m not saying these thing to solely be malicious, I’m saying this because Warner Bros. used to be a studio that I associated with ‘ambition’ along with making great films. Even when they failed, at least I could respect their failures. Presently, it feels as though the company is too chicken sh*t to either strive for greatness or fail miserably so instead they settle for producing movies that only instill indifference for the audiences. I’d rather be pissed off by a film than left unaffected at all because at least then I feel as though the producers and filmmakers tried. No one tried here and I’m starting to think WB doesn’t care to try ever again. That just breaks my heart. I actually care about film, about movies, about where the future of film is heading. Do you, Warner?

The Plot

Even the IMDb synopsis is uninspired…

The Warrens investigate a murder that may be linked to a demonic possession.

Not even the writers on IMDb cared...

Not even the writers on IMDb cared...

*WARNING*

Normally I wouldn’t write in a disclaimer like this, however in this particular case I felt it were necessary to warn everyone that the trailers for Conjuring 3 wildly misrepresent the story. Marketing seemingly attempts to depict the film as a courtroom drama mixed with a supernatural investigation, while in actuality the courtroom material amounts to maybe five minutes of screen time… although that’s pretty generous. Also, the majority of the bigger scares are featured in the trailers, rendering them ineffective when watching the movie itself. You have been warned.

Okay, I’ve Calmed Down Now…

For the most part, I’ve dug the hell out of the entire Conjuring franchise; James Wan’s first two Conjuring installments are fantastically creepy throwbacks to haunted house/possession pictures akin to The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. The first Annabelle had its moments, but ultimately fell short. Although the sequels, Annabelle: Creation and Annabelle Comes Home were a lot of spooky good fun. The Nun lacked in character, although was at least visually gorgeous in its gothic atmosphere. The Curse of La Llorona was okay for a modern paranormal haunting flick, but wasn’t anything remarkable. I’ve enjoyed entries from this series so much that most of these titles were mentioned in some capacity for my article, Let’s Talk About… The Best Horror Films of the 2010s!

'The Conjuring' Universe in chronological order.

'The Conjuring' Universe in chronological order.

Entering the third official Conjuring sequel, The Devil Made Me Do It, I was looking forward to seeing the Warrens back bustin’ evil spirits again. Admittedly, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are still the heart of this movie. Unfortunately, the screenplay read to me as less like the epic third entry to this beloved horror series and more like the pilot script to a proposed Conjuring TV show featuring the weekly spooky adventures of Ed and Lorraine Warren. And if it were strictly that with another episode at the ready then maybe I could be more forgiving, but they are clearly trying to pass this off as another cinematic ride of terror. It’s not. Never was I bored, never was I riveted, I was simply watching the movie while waiting for the end credits.

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By the Numbers Possession Flick

That’s what this majorly boils down to, this is a ‘by the numbers’ possession/exorcism movie that doesn’t do anything all that innovative. Which I could accept a tad more if there were characters I could really root for, but with the exception of Ed and Lorraine, I don’t care about the victims at the center of this haunting. Whether they lived or died made no difference to me. As though there were no real stakes because we know everything will work out by the time the third act wraps up. Which is more frustrating when I think about it because in the first act of the film initially sets up that this young man’s life is on the line when it comes to the possession elements as well as the court case determining if he’s guilty of murder, which will result in the death penalty. The possession plotline fails because the formula is never shaken up enough to keep the viewer on their toes about if the Warrens will prevail or not, it’s obvious that they will succeed from the start. Then the courtroom “drama” holds no substance either because it’s dropped faster than it was introduced, leading the story to focus more in the investigation going on with the Warrens. Plus by the end… *SPOILER ALERT* when the man being tried is convicted, the movie brushes off that whole ‘death sentence’ detail as though it never happened.

Missed Opportunity

When it was revealed from the trailers this film would heavily focus its plot incorporating this trial of the century using ‘demonic possession’ as a means of defense, I was extremely excited to see where this film may have been heading. This idea felt rather promising to use a unique angle on the horror genre, one that may have been reminiscent of something like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, yet with a Conjuring spin. Turns out the filmmakers actually had no interest in pursuing that courtroom angle as it was apparently a marketing scheme to draw people’s attention, creating the potential for disappointment upon actual viewing. This could have been a gripping crime horror-drama that so happened to be about demonic possession. Instead, the movie is a investigative procedural starring the Warrens that should be airing weekly on CBS Wednesday evenings.

Made a huge deal out of how this would center on the first court case that would ever use 'demonic possession' as a defense... instantly forgets about all that to supply nothing original in return.

Made a huge deal out of how this would center on the first court case that would ever use 'demonic possession' as a defense... instantly forgets about all that to supply nothing original in return.

The only unique thing about this movie...

The only unique thing about this movie...

The VVitch

I will say that there is one key difference between Conjuring 3 and the rest of the franchise, that is the inclusion of a living human antagonist rather than only the demonic spirits oppressing the featured family. To me, there was some cool and trippy sequences crafted here with the inclusion of a witch as the villain. Actress Eugenie Bondurant held an intimidating presence as this vindictive sorcerous using black magic to create eerily surreal illusions for our heroes. At no point is her performance ever over-the-top or campy, which probably could have been easy to do with a role like this. She plays her character very subdued with an off putting calmness, it worked for me. There was some cool stuff with this new baddie and the film could have benefitted from utilizing this character more. Then again, her motivations for why she’s targeting specific individuals are left completely unknown. Making me wonder why this witchy woman ever bothered projecting evil onto her utterly random victims, other than we needed a third Conjuring movie and she was the writer’s flimsy excuse to manifest one.

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A Spooky Look

In terms of the cinematography and special effects, there aren’t a lot of weak links as this is a decent looking movie. Almost none of the effects stand out in a bad way as most blend seamlessly, while in the photography there is a good amount of style to be seen, especially when it comes to the witch’s creepy illusions bringing on a slight Dario Argento vibe. Or whenever the Lorraine character would experience her visions, which would include some creative transitions going from reality into a spiritual realm or memory. The director does an admirable job at replicating a James Wan style and tone while also not trying to only ‘copy & paste’ his past work.

The only time I hold the look of the film in question is during the scene revolving around Lorraine’s visions leading her and Ed to the edge of a cliff. That’s when it looked awfully apparent that there were green screens present as the backgrounds behind our actors struck me as being flatter than paper. Other than that, I can’t recall any other moments that took me out of the feature. Visually speaking, that is.

A Not So Spooky Time

Excluding the first act’s exorcism introduction, I never felt scared. Possibly once or twice, but even then the effect was always minimal. Every jump scare or creepy moment was so painfully telegraphed that I felt ten steps ahead of the movie every time. Constantly waiting for the pacing to catch up with me so it could get it’s “big jolt” out of the way because I’ve already grown bored of the scene. Nothing surprised or scared the crap out of me, again with the exception of some wicked witchy sequences, nothing else came close to making me flinch because I always knew the scare was coming right around the corner. There’s a huge difference between drawing out a moment to build tension like James Wan is famous for doing and then what this director is doing, which is dragging scenes out only to end them with a loud music stinger.

Scenes like this felt like an eternity because there was no real reason for me to be afraid since this was a flashback... we already know the kid is going to be fine or else he wouldn't have been in the movie to begin with!

Scenes like this felt like an eternity because there was no real reason for me to be afraid since this was a flashback... we already know the kid is going to be fine or else he wouldn't have been in the movie to begin with!

My favorite horror duo!

My favorite horror duo!

Ed & Lorraine

Truth be told, I have loved these two characters since the very first film back in 2013. They’re a quirky and cute couple that kick some major ghost/demon ass! What’s not to love? I don’t ever affiliate the real-life people of Ed and Lorraine with their cinematic counterparts. To me, they are completely separate entities as I have little to no knowledge of the true-life figures, just their romanticized interpretations in the Conjuring movies. In this third entry, the married couple are just as lovable as ever while played by the always charming duo Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The only problem I have with their character this go-around was that I never feared for their safety, as if any and all danger surrounding them was superfluous.

In the first two movies, even though I was always mostly sure these two characters would make it out of these hectic situations okay, there remained a part of me that feared for them. When they went through anything remotely terrifying, I was terrified right alongside them. I was with them for their personal journeys through these horrifyingly evils in their path. Then we hit the third installment and it’s as though all that tension vanishes after the first fifteen minutes. As I mentioned before with the movie coming across as a television pilot, it feels as though the script itself isn’t even worried about our heroes because it acts as if we’ll be seeing them next week on another episode. Any time things seem sort of dyer for our leads, the tension quickly dissipates as the script is more determined to move onto the next big “boogedy boo” moment.

This week on... CSI: Conjured Spirit Investigators.

This week on... CSI: Conjured Spirit Investigators.

Yes, we love these characters, but it feels as though this third entry relies too much on its predecessors to keep our investment in them while providing very little to legitimately progress their arcs any further. I think these two characters, as wonderful and charming as they are, have already reached their highest potential for any arc or drama. If there does wind up being a fourth Conjuring greenlit then the writers really need to up their game. Or better yet, the original writers (Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes) should be hired back to return in order to properly develop the Warrens again because David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick doesn’t seem to be up to the task on his own. Yes I know Johnson-McGoldrick assisted in writing the second Conjuring film, but he wasn’t alone then. He is now and there’s obviously a huge element to the writing missing here, heart and suspense.

Overall

The Conjuring 3 is never bad. At its best, we have a few cool creepy effects with two charismatic leads. At its worst we have a supernatural crime procedural television program with little in the way of frights or character. If someone were to pop this on during a lazy Sunday evening when they have nothing else to do, it’s serviceable enough while guaranteed not to have the viewer lose a second of sleep since it never gets too scary. I watched this movie at 3 o’clock in the morning originally concerned I might not be able to sleep afterwards, yet I slept like a baby right away.

This features nothing we haven’t already seen countless times before in other Conjuring movies and horror in general. To an extent, I understand how that’s technically also true about previous entries in the franchise. The difference being that those other features accomplished spine-chilling horror with characters we can root for, not to mention incorporating some ambition in the filmmaking; The Devil Made Me Dot It, not so much. Is this the worst of the entire Conjuring line-up? I don’t know, probably not. However it’s definitely the least memorable out of the lot while easily being my least favorite of the main three Conjuring titles. Is it bad? No. Is it good? No. It’s okay.

Which installment of 'The Conjuring' franchise is your favorite movie?

Which installment of 'The Conjuring' franchise is your favorite movie?

Which Conjuring Is The Best?

That’s All Folks…

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It… it was a movie. What did you think though? Did you like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Excited to see more from the Conjuring franchise? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happen to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a spook-errific day!

© 2021 John Plocar

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