THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT Movie Poster | ©2021 Warner Bros./New Line Cinemas

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT Movie Poster | ©2021 Warner Bros./New Line Cinema

Rating: R
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble, Eugenie Bondurant, Shannon Kook, Keith Arthur Bolden, Ashley LeConte Campbell
Writer: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, story by James Wan & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, based on characters created by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes
Director: Michael Chaves
Distributor: Warner Bros./New Line Cinema
Release Date: June 4, 2021

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT is the third film in the CONJURING franchise (if one doesn’t count the ANNABELLE movies, THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA, and whatever they’re doing next with THE NUN).

Based on the exploits of real-life supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played throughout the series by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively), THE CONJURING sets hardcore Catholic ritual against demons, witches, ghosts, Satanists and other unfriendly entities.

The title of THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT – along with the ad campaign – makes us worry briefly that the movie is going to argue against the separation of church and state. While a lawyer (Ashley LeConte Campbell) does put in a couple of appearances, there’s no courtroom drama. There’s dialogue about what could happen if demonic possession is presented as a defense, but we don’t see it. (Those interested in the court case can read about it online; several of the survivors are vocally unhappy about Lorraine Warren’s published version of events.)

Instead, Ed and Lorraine are drawn into investigating the source of a case of demonic possession in 1981 Connecticut. The dynamic between the couple shifts from film to film. This time, they’re both determined to be of service. However, Ed’s shaky health and Lorraine’s too-potent visions are both sources of danger.

Screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, who collaborated with James Wan on the screenplay for THE CONJURING 2 (Wan directed the first two CONJURINGS, and crafted the story with Johnson-McGoldrick here), has a nice balance between the Warrens and other characters here. The structure is a horror/detective story, as Lorraine and Ed follow the clues to find out who’s responsible for what’s happening.

This works if one gives in to the great suspension of disbelief required for the plot logic of THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT. When the Warrens add two and two together, they somehow come up with 666, but in the movie’s world, they’re right. It helps that we’re familiar with the characters’ onscreen history, so that they don’t have to prove to us that they know what they’re doing.

Director Michael Chaves, having entered the CONJURING-verse with THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA, demonstrates that he knows his way around a jump scare. He also has some good set-up moments (keep an eye on the top of that shower curtain) and has fun with the era’s soundtrack (we get Blondie and Van Morrison, as well as an apt Elvis track).

Chaves sometimes lets the audience get ahead of him – there’s a scene in a morgue that’s funnier than it should be – but he’s got a lot of strong, creepy moments here. He also benefits from a shrewd casting choice with Eugenie Bondurant, who makes a strong impression.

Wilson and Farmiga both bring a sense of sweetness and wonder to the Warrens’ devout belief. They feel like good souls, even if Lorraine’s sense of ‘80s fashions are as scary as anything the occult has to offer.

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT is not going to enlighten anybody regarding the legal ramifications of satanic compulsion. However, it fills the bill for a fun things-that-go-bump-in-the-night flick.

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