In 2013 Director James Wan’s “The Conjuring” took the world of horror cinema by storm. The dark and sinister film was so frightening that it earned its R rating from scares alone. Since then, the Conjuring universe has conjured up seven sequels and spin-offs of varying quality. The most recent entry, “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” falls some where in the middle. Far from the worst entry in the series, but lacking the nerve shredding tension of the original.
The story takes place in the early 80’s. A young man, Arne, with no criminal record commits a brutal murder. His court defense and claims of innocence provide the film’s title. “The Devil Made Me Do It.” Ed and Lorraine Warren set out to prove that Arne was, in fact, possessed by a demon at the time the violent crime occurred. In doing so, they face off against dangerous and malevolent forces.
This film focuses on Ed and Lorraine Warren more than any of its predecessors. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s turn as the real life paranormal investigators is a highlight of the series, and of this film especially. “The Devil Made Me Do It” sees the franchise take a turn. It moves into new territory and breathes new life into these recurring characters. By taking the scares out of a haunted house setting, the story feels broader.
As the eighth entry in the long running franchise, “The Devil Made Me Do It” strives to be the biggest and most shocking film in the series. Sometimes it succeeds, but often it does not. It’s certainly louder, and the scares (or attempted scares) are put front and center. Little is left to the imagination, and this is where the film flounders. The original managed to create panic inducing dread through little more than a child’s clapping hands. Here, the jumps and fright are thrown at the screen with over the top moments and poor CGI. There is no foreboding entity to go bump in the night, instead it shrieks and contorts in full display.
“The Devil Made Me Do It” strives to be better than it is and the homages to better and scarier films can be seen throughout. It feels like a love letter to classic horror films while also hoping to break new ground. A courtroom drama with supernatural elements isn’t something that is done often. The best thing this film has going for it (besides the cast) is its ambition. Rather than going through the motions and pumping out another by the numbers haunting, the story breaks new ground and expands upon the lore of the Warrens.
In the end “The Devil Made Me Do It” proves a worthy enough sequel. It’s better than “The Nun” and most of the Annabelle films, but pales in comparison to “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2.” Its inability to build any real suspense is the film’s biggest downfall. 6.5/10