THE CONJURING 3: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Eugenie Bondurant, and John Noble
Story by: James Wan & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Directed by: Michael Chaves
The Warrens navigate an Exorcist III riff in The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021).
Directed by Blumhouse alum Michael Chaves and provided a procedurally inspired, serviceable script by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick of Orphan (2009) fame, this third dive into the Warren case files offers a decent set-up. The year is 1981 and the Warrens are on the tail end of another doozy spookshow.
The Glatzel family’s youngest has been taken by one of Hell’s minions, but the toll it takes to free him gives the stalwart Ed Warren a massive heart attack. Regardless of Ed’s pain, the ritual is left incomplete, allowing the demon to choose another host: Glatzel family friend Arnie Johnson (played with appropriately hangdog energy by young Ruairi O’Connor) who plans to settle down with his sweetheart Debbie Glatzel (a beautiful but underserved Sarah Catherine Hook).
From there, our Warrens are pulled through a ghoulish courtroom drama: a battle interdicted with another. They are pitting the agents of mercy against Master Satanists who wish to sew chaos. As a result, The Conjuring 3 operates quite a bit differently than the rest of the franchise, both tonally and visually. Unfortunately, I am not sure if those features do any favors for this installment.
For one thing, I feel the lack of a central location irreparably harms the film. While we are treated to a wonderfully creepy cold open, a now long-standing tradition of The Conjuring-verse, the scattered nature of the film’s plot never really allows us any investment in Arnie’s struggle. Add to that the slightly jumbled handling of the courtroom elements, and you have an experience that feels slightly hollow. This is a real shame because The Conjuring 3 does quite a few things really well!
As usual, both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are electric on screen together. They both have a real assurance to themselves in the characters by now, and it’s still a delight to see them sharing the screen. The film’s use of Lorraine as ostensibly the lead, as well, is a wise choice that I appreciated too. As the opening slightly sidelines Ed, Farmiga steps up admirably handling a lot of the film’s major set pieces well, up to and including the tense channeling of a dead body in a morgue with one of those timer dial lights.
The Conjuring 3′s focus on the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s also gives this installment some neat juice to squeeze into our cup. While the other installments were always haunting-based, this new entry pushes the franchise into darker, more demonic spaces and enemies. We’re given immensely creepy but entertaining faces by genre staples John Noble and Eugenie Bondurant. The latter of which plays the film’s antagonist, billed simply as The Occultist.
Ultimately(and unfortunately), The Conjuring 3 never quite comes to life fully—even armed with a few decent scares and our favorite demon-busting duo. Perhaps that’s just horror’s “rule of 3” finally coming for the Warrens. Some franchises have flourished by branching out beyond their visual languages and trappings. However, I think The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It would have been better served by staying indoors.