THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT (hereafter simply referred to as “DEVIL”) is directed by Michael Chaves. It’s the third film in the core CONJURING franchise, and eighth in the universe overall. It stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O'Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Sterling Jerins, and Julian Hilliard. The film is loosely based on actual events.
Following an exorcism on a boy, a young man finds himself possessed by the same demon, which leads him to see strange things, eventually killing and being put on trial, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are on the case, having to prove possession to the courts, showing that this young man was not in control during the actions at hand. But will they have a chance at success, and who’s manipulating these dangerous demons?
THE CONJURING series has been around for nearly a decade now, spawning plenty of core and side story films. Despite often mixed critical receptions, they’ve been solid Hollywood money-makers, so sequels seem inevitable; I have a feeling DEVIL isn’t going to be the last time we see the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren on the big screen. Here, an intriguing premise is unfortunately dragged down by elements like far too many characters, plot elements, and side stories, although one can’t argue with its casting choices and creepy atmospheric moments.
DEVIL’s biggest successes come in the form of its cast and the creepy situations, locales, and moments it conveys. Vera Farmiga in particular shines as Lorraine Warren, using her gifts to investigate strange goings-on, yet she manages to never seem like a caricature. Even the other members of the cast, including many relative unknowns, all play their parts well. They more or less behave how you’d expect real-life individuals to act in these macabre situations, and they convey that well.
Unfortunately, many elements keep the film from achieving greatness. Far too many characters, subplots, and side stories are crammed into a single film; I had a difficult time following who was who, as well as who was related to who. These aren’t issues I should have when trying to follow and watch a movie. The running time of nearly two hours also feels excessive, and it reeks throughout of a feeling that other movies have done this same situation better. What had potential to be the best element of the movie was a possessed young man on trial for murder under the pretense and defense of demonic possession, but the courtroom scenes and trial are practically nonexistent and barely play a role in the movie at all, much to the disappointment of the end results.
DEVIL isn’t a bad film, and it’s getting a simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max release. If you’ve got an HBO Max subscription, it’ll be a fun and creepy weekend time killer, but you don’t need to make the trek to the theater for this one. It’s not a total loss, but not the triumph it could’ve been either.
Rating: Two stars out of four.