Call me a sucker, but there are certain things I just cannot pass up. If the Dollar Tree has DVDs for $1.00 each, I gleefully load up my arms until they are overflowing. If I am flipping through the channels and hear Vicki Lawrence’s take on a Southern accent, I have to watch no matter how many times I have seen that episode of Mama’s Family (1983). If a Conjuring movie is released, I am going to watch it.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) revisits The Warrens, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson), as they are called in to help a possessed boy, David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), and his family. The demonologists assist with an exorcism which leads to the taunted demon leaving David’s body and possessing the body of his sister’s boyfriend, Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor). While possessed Johnson kills his girlfriend’s boss and landlord, Bruno (Ronnie Gene Blevins). The real life “Bruno’s” murder was the first recorded homicide in Brookfield, Connecticut’s 193-year history. Johnson’s initial plea of “not guilty by virtue of possession” was also the first of its kind, although this defense was rejected by the judge and later changed to “self-defense.”

This chapter in The Conjuring series marks several departures from the previous two films. Director James Wan has stepped aside and made way for Michael Chaves, known for The Curse of la Llorona (2019). This film depicts a possession instead of a haunted house. My favorite change, though, is that we get to see more of Lorraine Warren’s clairvoyance and visions. Instead of Lorraine simply getting an intense look on her face signaling a vision, the audience actually gets to see what she is seeing. The audience also gets to see what the possessed person is seeing, causing us not to be sure what is actually happening and whether it’s a demon altering its victim’s senses.

Whether it be these changes from the first two installments of The Conjuring or the fact that the series is wearing out its welcome, the movie is simply not as strong as the other two films or the film spinoffs that have branched out from the series such as Nun (2018) and the Annabelle films. The beginning of the film starts out strong and powerful. I loved the visual homages made to classic horror films such as a shot of Father Gordon (Steve Coulter) getting out of a cab and standing in the beam of a street light similar to the iconic shot from The Exorcist (1973). Another great image is when David is playing on a waterbed and a face presses up against the rubber from inside the bladder of the bed that holds the water. It is similar to a shot from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988).

Despite a strong start, the meat of the movie is forgettable. It just feels like filler. Julian Hilliard’s performance of David is one of the best parts of the movie and shows great promise for his future roles. Bruno is depicted as sleazy and annoying. Of course, being a creeper does not mean you deserve to die, but the film was definitely skewed in favor of Johnson. Johnson is shown as the victim of a possession instead of Bruno as the victim of murder.

The ending and grand finale battle falls flat, but I felt as if sitting through the movie paid off when Ed Warren adds another relic to the collection of artifacts from cases that the Warrens keep in their home. We see the painting of Valak from The Nun (2018) and even though it is just decoration and has nothing to do with this movie, it is such a terrifying image that it conjures a creepiness that the film otherwise lacked.

The scariest part of the film actually occurs during the closing credits when a brief excerpt from an audio recording of David’s exorcism is played. It was so chilling, that it made the past 112 minutes worth it. The movie was just “meh.” I hope it doesn’t mean the end for Conjuring movies, but it is weak and forgettable. My personal advice and hope as a viewer is that Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu acquire the rights to the Warrens’ files or stories and use them to create an anthology series.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) is currently in theaters and has also been released on HBO Max as part of its standard subscription.

For super fans of the Warrens or this case, the made for TV movie The Demon Murder Case (1983) is available to watch for free as of this writing on YouTube. Kevin Bacon plays Kenny Miller, based on Arne Cheyenne Johnson and TV legend Andy Griffith plays Ed Warren.

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