Horror films are something that either appeal or they don’t. Some people absolutely love them, others see no reason as to why you would want to pay for a ticket to be scared, but personal pretense aside the newest release in The Conjuring series ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ is a bit all over the place. Revolving once again around the protagonists and notorious ‘demonologists’ Ed and Lorraine Warren the two are once again faced with yet another strange demon story and yet another demonic force to face off against, the result is what can really only be described as a disappointingly mediocre entry to a legendary series .
It’s hard to sit on either side of the fence as far as The Conjuring 3 goes, there are some great parts but also some truly destructive ones that take away from the experience as a whole, with the added unfortunate overwhelming amount of cliché that tends to plague so much of this genre in the modern day.
The film is based on the true story surrounding the events of Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson in 1981 in which Arne was said to be ‘possessed by the devil’ when he murdered his then landlord, his defence henceforth claiming that he did not hold personal responsibility for the crime. It was said that Arne had become possessed by the demon during the exorcism of then 11 year old David Glatzel whom under Ed and Lorraine’s watch had been exorcised as a last-effort move from the family whom had supposedly witnessed increasingly and continuous concerning behavior from the young boy. The exorcism was recounted as a violent, disturbing event during which time Arne, whom was present as Debbie Glatzel’s partner demanded that the demon ‘take him instead’. Ed and Lorraine Warren claimed it was then that the demon exited David Glatzel and entered Arne Johnson, later bringing him to murder his landlord Alan Bono, stabbing him over 20 times with a pocket knife.
This was the first unlawful killing in the history of Brookfield, Connecticut and ‘The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It’ follows the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren as they try to discover the source of the demonic behavior that allegedly led to the possession of Arne Johnson.
Before anything is said about the plotline or creative direction of this misguided piece of work it would only be fair to recognize the cast for doing the best they could with what they had. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have well and truly proven themselves in the horror genre and despite a less-than-great film still hold a very good standard of individual work. After all these years their chemistry on screen is something to be regarded very highly for any future endeavors. Ruairi O’Connor as well was fantastic in his depiction and arguably the best on-screen as he played the mentally wayward and demonically possessed Arne Johnson, he was able to perfectly depict down to the constant shifting of the eyes exactly what you’d imagine someone possessed by demons would look like. Sarah Catherine Hook and Julian Hilliard also deserve considerable applause for their work depicting the Glatzels.
But unfortunately the cast can only do so much, and even with a proven level of quality in your people ‘The Conjuring 3’ isn’t able to back it up with the same quality of writing or creative direction. Turns of plot that have no real depth, little character development outside of Arne-Johnson and a strange overarching agenda all of which leading to a long, drawn out climax lead the film off the path of success and away from it’s roots which had proven so prolific in the past.
That being said, the set pieces of this film are fantastic, the continued creativity of the scene work and the big-budget effects coupled with impressive camera shots make for a visually impressive and undoubtable eye-pleasing viewing. Scenes such as that with the waterbed or the (albeit cliché) proceeding terrifying scene in the bathroom when David Glatzel faces the demons that have grasped onto his consciousness make for a film that still keeps a viewer on the edge of their seat here and there, but doesn’t quite live up to the bone-chilling quality of its predecessors.
Period accurate and extravagant set design aside, a mismanaged pace of plotline and wayward choice of direction seem to slow ‘The Conjuring 3’ down past the point of necessity and become destructive to its success. Switching with no real grace between several convoluted plotlines the film seems to disregard the terrifying simplicity that had made the previous entries into this series such powerful works. Various scenes feel unnecessary and whilst expansive set work is nice here and there it should never become center-stage to the plotline. You can’t help but feel disappointed by the lack of creativity as far as actual horror goes for a series that had done so well in the past to capture the essence of what made human beings crumble.
Unfortunately, perhaps the most redeeming factor of ‘The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is the intrigue in the fact that the events depicted (regardless of the actual truth of that depiction) are based off real-life events, something that has impressively never previously played so much of a redeeming role in the series. ‘The Conjuring 3’ seems to have lost sight of what made the previous films so successful and attempts to push the confusingly positive agenda that the case of Arne Johnson was one that deserved sympathy. Occasional comedic relief is well timed and overall the piece still holds a respectable level of terrifying suspense, however it can be said without a doubt that the latest release in ‘The Conjuring’ series is by far its weakest.