Back in 2013, The Conjuring became one of the most successful horror films of all time during a period where the horror genre had stagnated in the public eye. Directed by James Wan, who also brought us the Insidious and Saw franchises, the film reintroduced the world to Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) paranormal investigators and their “experiences” with the spiritual and demonic. Riding off that “based on a true story” tagline thats guaranteed to put butts in seats, The Conjuring was a hit with audiences and received a positive critical response. While not exactly groundbreaking or re-inventive of the haunted house genre, Wan’s understanding of horror and tension building struck a chord with audiences so much so that The Conjuring quickly took off into its own franchise. While the mainline Conjuring films have enjoyed a steady wave a critical success, its spin-offs have unfortunately been regarded as some of the worst horror films of their respective years. Perhaps this is due to Wan’s absence as director, but films like the Annabelle trilogy, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona have been harshly dismissed by critics while still finding some success with audiences who find the jump scare riddled films fun and enjoyable.
With the third installment in the mainline series also being the first of the trilogy to not feature James Wan as director, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It has unfortunately taken a step towards its sibling series, losing much of the tension and horror that made the first film so engrossing. While Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are still the most interesting aspect of the film as the pair of famous demon hunters, the script doesn’t do them any favors. Weak writing and a cheesy overemphasis on a “love conquers all” mantra bogs the film down, while the scares are at their absolute weakest here. Aiming to be more of a supernatural crime thriller rather than a straight up horror film, the scares are now few and far between. When they do occur, they unfortunately rely on cliche and obvious setups that plague films like Annabelle and The Nun. The exorcism scenes just seem to play the hits rather than trying to do anything original or interesting, yet because of the film’s lack on consistent scares, they still remain the highlights of the film. While the film seems to hint at a greater moral dilemma taking center stage, this being the use of religion in a court of law, this plot point is quickly discarded in favor of the same song and dance fans of the first two films have come to expect.
Lacking any real character development, consistent horror or general reason to even make a film based on a highly publicized trial, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It unfortunately hints that the series may officially be run dry. With its spinoffs doing little to keep up with the powerful horror films releasing in this modern horror renaissance, the mainline series seems to be losing steam as it fails to properly build upon the groundwork Wan has already set. As a fan of the original, it’s disappointing to see the franchise devolve into just another by the numbers and unoriginal ghost movie.