The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a dismal and disappointing eighth entry failing to conjure new scares in The Conjuring Universe.
Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively) are back on the case helping excise a demon from David Glatzel in 1981. After helping the demonic entity escape, it latches on to that of Arne Johnson (Ruari O’Connor) to corrupt him and possess him to kill his landlord.
Johnson makes it clear that possession is at play for his actions and confides in the Warrens to help him clear his name. The Warrens deserve must battle whatever demon is taking hold of him and may come discover that this is not the first time it has done so.
The film is based upon the real life “Devil Made Me Do It” case of Arne Johnson which lends the subtitle to the film to. It also borrows elements from the book The Devil in Connecticut by Gerald Brittle that covers both the Glatzel possession and the Johnson case.
The case itself is interesting in its own right as are the controversies over the book. Carl Glatzel, brother of David, sued both Brittle and Lorraine Warren for damages citing the possession claims as a hoax.
Arguably, both are way more interesting than that of the film itself. The Devil Made Me Do It instead devolves into a mismatch of a whodunit with “Satanic Panic” vibes and witchcraft.
The addition of witchcraft only muddies it further and makes the whole story a ridiculous spectacle by the time the third act arrives. It falls flat by delivering the same scares that fans will already be familiar with such as the franchise staple of possessed bodies contorting in various unnatural ways.
The film could have benefitted going the route akin to The Exorcism of Emily Rose which combined courtroom drama fare with all the good of what makes supernatural horror so damn great. The Devil Made Me Do It fabricates a story that does not garner enough interest to be invested in for the reminder of the film.
That’s not to say it does not have bright spots. Director Michael Chaves, who directed the sixth installment of the franchise with The Curse of La Llorona, does solid work with establishing the mood of the film with the opening possession and the murder itself.
The performances from Wilson and Farmiga are still solid showing the growth of the characters and how their love remains strong despite the many supernatural obstacles in their way. O’Connor plays Johnson with sympathy that goes out the window to ballistic territory when the possession takes hold.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a “wash, rinse, repeat” horror romp in a franchise that had great promise, only to become to the same old song a dance with each entry.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is rated R and is currently in theaters. It is also streaming exclusively on HBOMax until July 4.