The Devil Made Me Do It is the third film in The Conjuring trilogy. Well, kind of. At the very least, Annabelle Comes Home felt like The Conjuring 2.5. In any case, this cinematic universe is nearing double digits with this being the eighth installment. (Maybe they should’ve just called it The Fate of the Conjuring?) Unlike the MCU, The Conjuring isn’t able to play around with as many different genres. Even if it’s not the most experimental cinematic universe, though, The Devil Made Me Do It continues to deliver what fans want to see.
The horror, while occasionally over-reliant on jump scares, is executed with style and wit. The “true story,” whether you believe it or not, makes for solid cinema. Above all else, the chemistry between our leads is still beyond charming. You wouldn’t expect the romance to be the most consistently good thing in a supernatural horror franchise. With Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the roles, however, we never doubt the unbreakable rapport between Ed and Lorraine Warren… even if you might doubt the historical accuracy.
The Devil Made Me Do It kicks off in the middle of a case as Ed and Lorraine attempt to exorcise a demon from little David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). The opening offers a satisfying blend of homages to The Exorcist and fresh imagery, most notably a scare involving fingers and shower rings. Hilliard, in particular, has a lot of fun in this sequence, channeling Regan MacNeil and maybe a young Elton John. David is spared when Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), the boyfriend of older sister Debbie Glatzel (Sarah Catherine Hook), offers his body as a host. For some reason, Arne doesn’t tell anyone and he winds up committing manslaughter while possessed. It’s up to Ed and Lorraine to prove Arne’s innocence, but even his lawyer needs some convincing.
For a brief moment, it appears the story may venture into courtroom drama territory, ala The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Little time is dedicated to the actual trial, though, which is something of a missed opportunity. On one hand, audiences looking to be scared might’ve felt gypped if we spent most of the movie in a courtroom. On the other hand, this new direction might’ve given The Devil Made Me Do It more of an identity. Instead, the filmmakers take a safer route, although they do occasionally step out of their comfort zone. Ed and Lorraine aren’t restricted to a haunted house this time around. We get to see them explore a wider variety of creepy locals, coming across some sinister foes along the way. Of course, a retired priest played by John Noble is more devilish than the actual big bad.
As far as this cinematic universe goes, The Devil Made Me Do It doesn’t reach the heights of The Conjuring 2, but it’s miles ahead of The Nun. If you’re starting to experience franchise fatigue, this probably won’t be the film to reignite your interest. For those who need their Conjuring fix, though, director Michael Chaves has made a worthy addition with cinematography that immerses the audience in a hellish atmosphere. One can’t help but wish that the story took more risks. In the end, however, it’s better to accept the film for what it is rather than for what it isn’t. And what it is, is a perfectly enjoyable popcorn flick.