If John Carpenter is the Grandfather of modern Horror, then James Wan could be viewed as the doting father for the genre after spawning The Conjuring series of films and its haunted siblings. Giving an insight into the real-life Paranormal Investigators/demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren has given back some excitement to those fans of the genre. But after numerous films, you do begin to wonder what new things can Wan and his The Curse of La Llorona director, Michael Chaves, bring to this franchise? Well, you’re about to find out, and while the scares come thick and fast, the third in the main series seems to have lost a bit of its edge.
Taken from the real-life case book of our beloved Warrens – played lovingly flawlessly yet again by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson – The Devil Made Me Do it moves the Warrens into the ’80s and centres the plot on their most controversial case: the exorcism of David Glatzel and the resulting trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson who murdered his landlord while supposedly possessed.
In good old fashioned Conjuring style, the action starts at full throttle with the Exorcist-inspired exorcism of Glatzel at the hands of a priest and the Warrens. While everyone is under the illusion it was a success, it would appear the boyfriend of Glatzel’s sister Arne (played by Ruairi O’Connor) became this particular demon’s new host. Plagued by insecurities and jealousy under the control of the demon, Arne murders his landlord and the Warrens find themselves back on the case as Arne heads for trial.
This is exactly the point in where the format of the plot gets an injection of new life. Moving away from the typical haunted house style haunting these instalments give rise to, it takes the Warrens on the road in a procedural investigation. It may be a route of fresh ideas during the birth of relationships between psychics and the police but it’s a route that seems to have taken away from the intensities of the demonic horrors that lay in wait.
At the core of the film is, as usual, the love the Warrens have for each other, with Farmiga’s Lorraine taking the front seat for this one. Taping into her psychic powers Lorraine is in grave danger and it’s only the connection and emotional ties to Ed that not only ground Lorraine but grounds the whole story in the one reason fans of this series keep on coming back for more.
Wan and Chaves’s plight in opening up a fresh new take for the Conjuring series, making it thriller than killer, is an understandable move, but ultimately the film does suffer from it. If the question is – will the need to keep fans interested in a beloved series with a new installment that diverts heavily from its origins affect the overall impact of the film – the answer is yes. They should have stuck with the devil they know.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is released in UK cinemas on May 26.