- Movie Rating -

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

| June 4, 2021

I was never a huge fan of either The Conjuring, its sequel, or it’s long strange series of side-quels that made this new entry now the eighth movie in this universe.  Too much of these films are focused on loud, noisy jump-scares, CG effects and imagery the roar but never creep.  They never seem to earn their scary moments and that approach has always kind of bored me.  Even the first film, so lauded by critics and horror fans, never grabbed me because the filmmaker didn’t have the patience to build suspense.

Yet, I must admit a modest affection for that film’s intention.  I sensed that at least someone (in that case director James Wan) was trying something new, something that hadn’t existed in the horror genre since the mid-70s.  He was genuinely trying to pull a sense of dread into the material.  It didn’t work exactly, but I appreciated the effort.  These movies keep promising something they never quite seem willing to deliver.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem that I had with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, a second sequel which promises so much and delivers so little.  The attempt here is to turn the page on the case files of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren away from the haunted house stuff and focus, this time, on an exorcism.  That’s a nice approach because for a couple so celebrated in the field of paranormal activity, it seems short-sighted to only focus one area of their work.

Yet, the movie takes an idea and never really deals with it.  Based on a true story, we follow Ed and Lorrain (played again by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they face down, first the demonic possession of David Gratzel and then the murder trial of Arne Johnson, who became the only person in U.S. legal history to successfully bring forth a defense sought to prove innocence based upon a claim of demonic possession, in this case for the murder of his landlord Alan Bono.

The problem is that that movie never really deals with that.  Arne’s case is more or less shoved to the side while Ed and Lorraine go looking for the source of the possession and we are treated to scene after scene of loud noises and dark apparitions supposedly drawn from a Satanic ritual.  The movie becomes a series of conversations and investigations frequently interrupted by banal special effects sequences that feel like a late-series episodes of “The X-Files.”

But how did it all play out?  That’s what I want to know.  How does a good lawyer draw demonic possession into a murder trial and what evidence do they present?  How slick does the attorney have to be to convince a judge that a person’s body was taken over by a malevolent spirit?  These are questions that writer James Wan and director Michael Chaves have no real interest in exploring.  Their forward goal is to give us a circus light show, a lot of poundings, flashing, screaming and music without ever really getting to the meat of their story.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized