This past summer, the third entry in the popular Conjuring franchise officially made its way into theaters and HBO Max; however, the key factor was that James Wan was not directing the latest installment. The critical reception regarding the third movie was decisive, with most critics labeling the sequel a middle-of-the-road effort that lacks any true scares or surprises. Currently, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It stands at an average 55% on rotten tomatoes, the lowest score of the franchise thus far. So, is the rotten tomatoes score warranted? Is The Conjuring 3 the worst film in the series thus far? Well…one thing’s for certain, the title is surely the worse of the franchise hands down.
Another haunting file of Ed and Lorraine Warren saw it tackle the first case in U.S. history where the murder suspect claims that demonic possession as a defense. Going off the premise alone, The Conjuring 3 had a ton of potential. To watch a court case where a murder suspect must defend his stance on demonic possession opens up some intriguing scenarios; however, the film rarely focuses on the court aspect itself, which is highly disappointing. Just exactly what did Ed and Lorraine show the defense lawyer to sway her opinion on choosing not guilty over demonic possession? It’s one of the many interesting questions that’s never answered during the movie. Does that make it a bad film? No. The main issue is that part III commits a sin that’s worse than being bad, it’s simply boring. Granted, there are parts of the film that are pretty good. Casting veteran John Noble was an excellent idea. The actor doesn’t have a huge or complex role here; however, he brings a nice gravatas to an otherwise thankless role. Of course, the heart of this franchise is Ed and Lorraine Warren’s relationship, and the chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga remains strong. Granted, there’s not much development in both characters throughout this franchise. Sure, they go through tons of demonic hocus pocus that strengthens their relationship, but as separate people they generally remain the same. Otherwise, the acting in this film is solid all around; however, the issue is that the script lets them down. Since the filmmakers opt to focus on the case instead of the actual trial, the movie often becomes a slog because it follows a predictable path that lacks any true surprises. Seeing Arne Johnson walking down the street in blood-soaked clothing is a big attention grabber. The terrifying sequence of Arnie “seeing” the demon, but actually killing Bruno before that moment is actually well done too. However, following those moments, the shocks and surprises stop from there.
Unfortunately, the demon in this film love playing the jump scare game, which is sadly the norm for horror movies in this genre. In fact, the infamous scene where Lili Taylor’s basement clap was also a jump scare, so this series has never shied away from that trope. However, Wan was a master at building tension so these types of jump scares were effective because of Wan’s direction and the series not over relying on them. The Conjuring 3 isn’t packed with jump scares, but the ones that do come can be seen from a mile away. Still the film doesn’t rely on scares, it goes by a story; however, Arnie just isn’t an interesting character. We don’t know much about him other than he’s a loving father. The Conjuring is that rare horror series that does give time to its characters; however, there’s nothing compelling about the young man. Since the film refuses to take an interesting approach to the tired demonic possession angle then we’re stuck with waiting on the demon to go into 2nd gear. The B-plot of Ed and Lorraine tracking down the witch has a bit more juice to it and Ed almost killing Lorraine was a nice moment of suspense. Since we care more about Ed and Lorraine, this moment was actually more effective. However, that side plot isn’t enough to make up for the entire film. Like I stated previously, The Devil Made Me Do It is by no means a bad film. On average, it’s better than a good portion of the horror movies in this genre; however, that actually speaks on the sad state of supernatural/demonic possession films when a boring movie is better than most of the terrible schlock. In the end, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the worst film in the series. However, it’s far from the worse entry in the Conjuring universe.