The Devil Made Me Do It: the Conjuring franchise returns for another fright

Like many modern thrillers, the set up spooks more than the climax

Film Title: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Director: Michael Chaves

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O'Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 112 min

Fri, Jun 4, 2021, 05:00

   

Eight years and eight films into the planet’s most profitable franchise – with a $1.9 billion haul against a combined budget of $139.5 million – and the Conjiverse gets back to basics with a “real-life case” from the files of the 20th century’s most famous paranormal investigators. The ever reliable Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as Lorraine and Ed Warren, with Michael Chaves, the safe pair of hands behind the Curse of La Llorona, in the director’s chair.

The Exorcist is dutifully referenced as a taxi arrives at a suburban American home and Ed Warren’s profile is glimpsed in the fog. These supernatural sleuths have come to the aid of David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), a demonically possessed 11 year old. The child’s mid-exorcism contortions cause Arne (played by the charismatic young Irish actor Ruairi O’Connor), the caring boyfriend of David’s sister, to cry out: “Take me!”

This bad idea and dramatic sequence ends with a heart attack, a plot point that sidelines Ed and Lorraine for long enough for Arne to commit the murder that leads to one of America’s most celebrated trials of the early 1980s.

The biographical nuts and bolts are intriguing and, as ever, the jump scares and murk are professionally timed and delivered. Joseph Bishara’s score and Michael Burgess’s cinematography are suitably sinister. There are fun frights and starts with a creepy retired priest, Fr Kastner (John Noble), and – spot the period detail and unwise decor – a haunted waterbed. 

It’s a mid-league performance for the second most successful horror franchise in movie history (Godzilla remains the reigning genre champ), one that falls between the efficient second Annabelle film and La Llorona, and one that greatly improves on The Nun, arguably the sequence’s only misfire.

A backstory about witches, however, doesn’t quite convince, nor does the couple’s underwhelming nemesis. In common with too many modern thrillers, the set-up spooks more than the climax and rather less than the real-life Warren exorcism tapes that play over the end credits.

In cinemas from Monday, June 7th