The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It ★★★½

The Devil Made Me Do It is pretty much the perfect example of a "play it safe" horror film, albeit one that is fairly well-polished. This is something that I usually would look down upon to a degree, but the overall approach taken for this film, recentering the events around the fan-beloved Warren characters, exorcism horror and doomed innocents, does feel a bit like a smart move for a long-winded franchise that had been starting to lose steam with general audiences.

The Warrens themselves, played in a relatable manner as usual by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, probably elevate this film about a point or two, just with their presence and their care shown for the stakes of the fates of their characters and the characters they are working to help. If I'm being honest, I think this film is middling within the franchise in almost every way, not an entirely bad place to be this far into a set of films. When I call this a "play it safe" movie, I mostly mean that the bones of the mystery "semi-true" story and characters are solid and intriguing enough to hold your attention and that the Warren performances safely guide us through a decently middling story and script, but that nothing about the scares, setting or monsters/villain are impressively memorable. The film lacks the truly intense scares and terrifying nature of the original The Conjuring or Annabelle: Creation, which I feel are soundly the two scariest films in this universe. The monster/demon and main villain design are also nowhere near as fun or impressive as that of The Conjuring 2 or Annabelle Comes Home. This film's villain is honestly super, super flat and unmemorable, a big misstep undoing some of the character goodwill that Farmiga/Wilson have brought to the film and almost certainly the main thing keeping this out of a higher tier scoring area for me, personally. A boring villain leads a competently directed and moderately engaging film into the land of mediocrity or "pretty goodness" more often than almost any other factor.

And yet, I feel I cannot give this movie a bad score, despite missed opportunities for more terror or a better villain. It was just such a good basic feeling to watch these two leads back in action and to get another true "Conjuring" sequel. I was a little concerned when director Michael Chaves was announced, as he helmed the only movie in this franchise that I honestly just hate, but he directs this film with a pretty sturdy hand and also pays nice stylistic homage to James Wan's deftly executed original. We even get a similarly twisting tracking shot "house tour" nod at one point. The film contains a similarly excellent use of good period-appropriate soundtrack cuts, most notably a well-integrated and recurringly effective use of Blondie's "Call Me". There's an awesome recurring visual shot panning forward across an aesthetically pleasing diagonal-set walkway leading into the house. The film generally feels well-polished and moves along pretty well, even in lesser-exciting areas of the plot.

I actually feel most of this franchise has something to offer, perhaps minus the first Annabelle movie and the borderline embarrassing The Curse of La Llorona. The producers knew bringing back the Warrens was the right move here, eight films deep into a franchise. Most of these more recent sequels have not gone over amazingly well with audiences, but I can point to areas of notable worth. Sure, The Nun is a bit blandly paced and needed more story and more personality, but the isolated setting and mood do carve out a unique niche for the franchise. Sure, Annabelle Comes Home is mostly devoid of blood, pulls a Warrens bait-and-switch and focuses on a teenage cast, but I honestly LOVED that film's warm heart, characters and "Goosebumps with a budget" scare pieces and monsters. It is a personal favorite of mine, despite the lukewarm audience reaction. In any case, general audiences haven't reacted particularly favorably to a Conjuring film since 2017's sturdy and legitimately scary "Annabelle" origin prequel, Annabelle: Creation. While that film didn't feature the Warren characters, the other successful franchise films have, so it was time to go back to basics for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, or working Coop title: The Conjuring: The Warrens Come Home.

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