In this latest installment of the Conjuring franchise, we’re once again following paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). This film takes inspiration from the real life case of the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.
Given there’s a real court case that ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is based on – and marketing for the movie has leaned into that – one assumes the threequel will include some interesting mashup of horror and courtroom drama in its makeup. But the case never features all that much in the narrative, so expect this latest in the horror franchise to be mostly another scare fest.
As with other installments in the Conjuring franchise (spanning the ‘Annabelle’ movies, ‘The Nun’, and ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ – whose director, Michael Chaves, also helmed this entry), the jump scares are strong, especially in the first half of the movie. As with other movies in the franchise, the practical effects and strong acting prove more effective than the CGI effects and initial overt references to ‘The Exorcist’. The sound design will give you several jumps and get your heart pumping. Moreover the camerawork and editing accompany the soundtrack and balancing the little creepy movements and big movements to keep you on edge.
A few college scenes are thrown in for play, with a very ‘Everybody Wants Some!’ feel. Unfortunately though ‘The Conjuring 3’ loses a significant amount of momentum in the latter half, making a kind of comeback in the finale, thus following a pattern fairly typical of the franchise and horror movies generally. A few set pieces are expertly used, most notably a very ‘80s waterbed. It’s goofier but also more frightening (in that it literally has more frights) than other installments, and expands on locations effectively. Frustratingly, the mystery at its core gets a rather silly and disappointing resolution.
Irish actor Ruairi O’Connor (‘Handsome Devil’) makes a strong impression as does kid actor Julian Hilliard (who audiences might recognise him from ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ or ‘Wandavision’). Still the franchise belongs to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who have carried all these movies through, and may have given their most emotional, moving turn yet in this installment. Even as pacing falters and interest lags, Wilson and Farmiga's lead performances and characters’ relationship keep you invested. Ed’s respect for Lorraine, but need to protect her, makes for a fascinating push and pull dynamic that grounds the film in reality where when the movie leans into myth, it gets a bit daft. There are some interesting spatial twists and designs to the final act, but it generally feels underwhelming, aside from this tender moment between the Warrens that really feels earned.
Seriously though, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do not get enough credit for the talented actors they are.