Movie Review: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Director: Michael Chaves
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble
Plot: The Warren’s investigate the case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, seeking evidence to prove that he committed murder under the influence of demonic possession.
Review: You can’t start a discussion of The Conjuring Universe without some acknowledgement of the franchise creator James Wan. I would like to suggest that he is living under a curse. He is fated to create unique, ground-breaking horror movies that set the tone for the entire genre for the next decade, only to have the style run into the ground through over-exposure. It happened with Saw, and it happened again with The Conjuring. This is the eighth movie in eight years, and although we haven’t seen all of them and sometimes mix them up with Insidious movies, we’re kinda feeling fatigued with the whole thing.
A big part of the problem is the main characters. Ed and Lorraine Warren, here portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Ver Farmiga, are based on real people who are either charlatans or promoting dangerously naive beliefs. We could accept that this is a fictional representation of their real cases, especially given that they present the supernatural elements as real, but the fictional versions are assholes. The gaping holes in their arguments are actually pointed out by characters in the movie, such as the lawyer noting that Ed’s examples of court cases were all unsuccessful. I don’t know why they’re presenting this ambiguity about the supernatural since we, as the audience, now it is true. In spite of these solid arguments against their claims of demonic possession, Ed and Warren feel so entitled and justified in their beliefs that they break into a mortuary in the middle of the night to muck about with a dead body without informing the family. That’s horrible behaviour, and you never justified these extreme measures.
There is a moment when Ed and Lorraine invite a highly sceptical lawyer to visit their home and see their proof of demonic activity. We cut straight to the lawyer standing in court looking traumatised. Why didn’t they show us this scene? I wanted to see the proof. I wasn’t convinced by these jackholes. I like both these actors, so it’s weird that I dislike these characters so much.
Although they’ve based this film on a pretty interesting case, the first instance of demonic possession being used as a defence in an American court. The Warren’s were there in real life, lending their ‘expertise’ to the defence, but this film focuses more on the fictionalised investigation. The story generally walks through the same steps as the previous films in the series. We have a normal scene, something slightly odd happens…and we wait. We wait, and we wait, and we wait…and then boo. We’re not saying that jump scares can’t be used effectively, as Sinister and It Follows demonstrated, but they’re predictable and tired here. This comes from the director of The Curse of La Llorona, so it’s little wonder that it doesn’t strike as hard as the original movie.
Mixing the fictional with the real life introduces quite a few plot holes as well. At the end of the movie they stick with the real result of the court case, that being Johnson being charged with manslaughter. The court doesn’t seem to consider the demonic possession claim, in spite of a room full of prison staff having watched Johnson floating off the ground and doing a bunch of demon stuff. Plus a tunnel full of evidence of the Satanic rites being performed along with the dead body of the perpetrator. You can’t claim that the movie isn’t trying to blur the line between their fictional universe and the real cases because they mix images from the movie with photographs of the real events during the credits. They also present the Satanic Panic of this period of time as being based in fact, a claim which did lead to innocent people being imprisoned.
There were a couple of sequences we liked, and we’re always done for John Noble playing a weirdo. We did an interview with him once and he is aa delightful oddball with a real passion for his work. He was a fun addition and was clearly having fun.
With unlikeable heroes and some real tacky jump scares, this doesn’t compel me to revisit this franchise.
Rating: TWO out of TEN