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The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

The original “Conjuring” film was the scariest movie since “The Exorcist” in my book. Its first sequel was pretty damn good too, loaded with creeping dread and nice scares.

Alas, the third time is definitely not the charm, as the second sequel THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT doesn’t live up to its legacy.

There are a few good moments to be had, including the film’s opening sequence as Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) battle a demon that has invaded a young boy named David. Jullian Hillard (The Haunting of Hill House, Wandavision) is a great little actor and his scenes depicting the demon bending his body into evil, grotesque shapes while he spouts deep-throated bellows are scary, gross and pure horror fun.

When his sister’s boyfriend Arne begs the demon to leave the young boy alone, it willingly jumps into Arne’s body. The opening ten minutes is loaded with visual cues from “The Exorcist” including the priest’s arrival backlit by a single, foggy streetlight and Arne pulling a Father Karras.

The rest of the film never equals the opening for sheer horror.

Soon, Arne is seeing and hearing disturbing things and it’s a very bad time for his work to involve a chainsaw.

Troopers find Arne walking by the roadside, covered in blood.

The Warren’s are called back to help save Arne and provide his defense in court, creating the first real-life example of “not guilty by reason of demonic possession” ever pled in a courtroom. Like the rest of the Conjuring films, this is based on a true story, but true life was never quite this scary.

John Noble (Walter from “Fringe”) is terrific as a former Priest in town that helps the Warren’s track down the source of the evildoers.

Unfortunately, the story wanders all over the place, even flashing back to the start of Ed and Lorraine’s romance as teenagers. Wilson and Farmiga are really good in their roles and convey a real sense of love and commitment to each other and to defeating the nasty spirits. But it just felt to me like I was bouncing between a routine episode of Dateline, a couples origin story and Arne being locked up with a demon in more ways than one.

Jump scares and sudden sounds are well used, as always, but after the opening sequence, it was just never very scary. I come to these movies to be dragged down into suspenseful horror. Maybe it’s director Michael Chaves (the Curse of La Llorona) just doesn’t have the chops to pull it off, but It’s pretty disappointing compared to the first two films. I kept waiting for bigger or more inventive scares.

Producer James Wan said that they wanted to move away from the “Haunted house” set up depicted in the first two films and I think that move leaves the film stagnant. Maybe if he’d stayed in the director chair, this would have been more compelling.

At one point, a character walks into the famous room at the Warren’s with all the trinkets and memorabilia from the other, much scarier films in the franchise. All it did was remind me how much better most of those films were. The painting of that scary Nun on the wall as he walks around the room gave me more creeps than anything else in the last hour of this installment.

Decent but unsurprising, pedestrian where its predecessors were superb, THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT features mild PG-13 scares bathed in R rated blood. But those first ten minutes pack a hell of a punch……

I’ll give this one a C.

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