The newest addition to one of the most frightening movie franchises, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, directed by Michael Chaves, is finally in cinemas. It has been a heavily anticipated film since the last editions, Annabelle Come Home (2019) and The Curse of La Llorona (2019), but the question is, was it worth the wait?
Throughout this franchise, viewers have seen the Warrens, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), tackle a lot of demons, quite literally. In film chronological order, the first time viewers are introduced to the couple is in The Conjuring (2013), where the pair were summoned to help a family being plagued by the malevolent spirit of a witch in 1971. Then, in 1972, the Warrens’ daughter and friends battle a demonic spirit that is attached to a creepy doll in Annabelle Comes Home. Lastly, the final time viewers saw the couple was in The Conjuring 2, where Ed and Lorraine travelled to Pontefract, UK, to help a family who were being oppressed by a demon.
Although, while these may just be stories and characters for some of the audience, the films are based on true events. Ed (1926-2006) and Lorraine Warren (1927-2019) were paranormal investigators from the US and Ed was said to be the first demonologist not to be ordained by a priest. Lorraine apparently has abilities and was able to see spirits, as well as into the future. They investigated many spiritual and demonic cases over their years as paranormal investigators, but one of the most horrifying ones was one the film is based upon.
Originally, I thought the film was going to be about the Amityville murder case. If you have watched your serial killer documentaries, you may have heard of this one. In 1974, the eldest son went around the family house and shot each of his siblings and his parents. Arne claimed he was possessed and a demon had told him to commit the murders. A year later, a family moved into the house and started to experience paranormal activity. The Warrens had visited and investigated that house, which is why I thought this would be the storyline for the film. However, I was wrong.
So, the film follows the Warrens’ terrifying journey into solving demonic murders and a boy that is being cursed by a malevolent woman. When the boy, Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), gets possessed, commits an unforgivable and fatal act, the Warrens and his close circle rush to find evidence that may help his case. However, finding evidence can be quite difficult when there is a bloodthirsty demon after his soul. To add fuel to the fire, Ed and Lorraine have to fight for their own lives when a frightening revelation is discovered, the demon doesn’t just need Arne’s soul but Ed’s too. Whether Ed and Arne make it out alive, you are going to have to watch and find out.
From that bare description, it can easily be deciphered that the storyline was amazing. One of my worries before seeing this film is that it would have been like the others, but it was not. The way the Warrens were given more of a detective role and not just viewed as paranormal investigators was refreshing, it is a side to the characters that viewers have not seen before. This film did not follow the classic storyline of someone being singled out, getting possessed and then the exorcist comes to the rescue. Instead, the demon chose when to possess Arne and when to leave (the reason why this happens will spoil the film), which makes it even more terrifying than a classic horror film as viewers are left on edge wondering when the demon will pop up again.
While James Wan did not direct the film as he did with the first and second Conjuring films, Wan helped with writing the story. However, with Chaves as director, it felt more like a spooky detective film. When reading reviews on Google on the drive back from the cinema, many people seem to agree. While it was new to see the Warrens playing cops and robbers, it took away the intense spookiness that the other films had. In other words, the film was more jumpy than scary. With the hair-raising music playing during the Warner Bros introduction and the frantic exorcism at the beginning of the film, I had expected to watch the scariest film in my life, but it wasn’t. Some people may prefer jump scares over actual scariness and in this case, this film is the perfect film for those.
However, the lack of spooks did not deter the fact the acting is amazing. Wilson and Farmiga pulled out all the stops and delved perfectly into their roles as paranormal investigators. The pair have featured in many films within this franchise and I never get tired of their acting. As their characters are put through different situations, both Wilson and Farmiga understood the assignment and it felt like the real Ed and Lorraine Warren were on the screen. Ruairi O’Connor also did an astounding job playing the part of a (partially) possessed boy. The terrified facial expressions, alarmed and out-of-breath speech, as well as expressive body language, made his role truly believable. Also, a quick hats off to the makeup team giving O’Connor a washed-out look that added ‘possessed’ to his character.
Another aspect of the film that was interesting was how well everything matched the decade the film took place. Farmiga was wearing high-necked blouses with either a high-waisted skirt or trousers. Accompanying that outfit would be a chunky belt and boots. Doesn’t those outfits scream the 70s? Then there is the decor of the Warrens house with yellow, orange and browns everywhere. The Warrens also drive an AMC Ambassador SST, a car that gives the film that 70s feeling. One moment it feels like you’re riding in this beautiful, old-fashioned car and the next moment you are in a creepy, unsettling basement. The ability to change the viewer’s mood by changing the scenery is outstanding. For example, there are peaceful scenes in the film where the sky is a pale blue that create a sense of tranquility; almost forgetting one is sat in a cinema watching a horror film. Then, colours like black, yellow, orange and red are used to heighten the audience’s senses, survival instincts kick in at the sense of danger.
Despite the cool car, amazing wardrobe and incredible acting, there were many holes in the film that (personally) would have completed the film. The first being the mystery woman who is cursing people. The viewers do not find out who this woman is until three-quarters of the way through the film. While this added to the suspense and made the woman even scarier, when she was finally introduced, it felt like pieces were missing. Viewers find out her identity and then that’s it. What would have been even scarier was if the directors and story writers gave her some more depth, some horrifying history about how she delved into satanism. Another aspect that could have been explored was the cult, Disciples of the Ram. Just like the mystery woman, this satanic cult gets a brief introduction as to who they are and then that’s it. In my opinion, the film would have been more chilling if the cult were directly involved somehow. It felt as though the film opened doors but did not step through them.
So, was this film worth the wait? Yes, it was. While it may not have been as scary as the other films, it was still an entertaining and terrifying watch.