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4K Ultra HD Review: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

August 24, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The third film in the Conjuring series, and the eighth in the franchise if you count all the spinoffs, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It offers another story taken from the case files of noted paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga).

This is the first in the trilogy to not have James Wan in the director’s chair, with Michael Chaves, the filmmaker behind unofficial franchise entry The Curse of La Llorona, taking over instead. While this third Conjuring film is ultimately unable to reach the heights of the first two movies, and the series is starting to show a few cracks, The Devil Made Me Do It is still a slight cut above the average horror movie.

Like the first two “based on a true story” films, this one focuses on the real life case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, the first American tried for murder to argue their innocence in court by using the defence of demonic possession, which came to be known as “the devil made me do it” case. Arne (played in the film by Ruairi O’Connor) is dating Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook), the older sister of David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), a young boy who is facing demonic possession.

The film opens with David’s exorcism, (including an homage to that famous shot from The Exorcist within the first few minutes), which the Warrens are heavily involved in. When Arne steps in and begs the demon to possess him instead, he gets overtaken by a dark force that eventually leads him to stab Debbie’s drunken boss (Ronnie Gene Blevins) to death. Ed and Lorraine come to Arne’s defence to save him from the death penalty, but must find proof that he was possessed at the time of the attack.

Where as the first two Conjuring movies were largely contained to one (haunted) house, this film opens up the world quite a bit more. It has elements of a police procedural, with the screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick requiring the Warrens to essentially play detectives as they try to connect Arne’s case to another murder miles away. There are moments of tension and creepiness throughout, including the introduction of an occultist (Eugenie Bondurant), but the story meanders somewhat and lacks the focus and more contained thrills of the first two.

The prologue dramatizing David’s exorcism, which happened in real life and was approved by the Catholic Church, is probably the most chilling sequence in the movie, and we hear part of the actual recording over the end credits. But the film starts to run out of some steam as it goes along and struggles to maintain the same level of excitement, despite a few jump scares. Still, like the previous films in the series, The Devil Made Me Do It is aided by some handsome production design, and the cinematography by Michael Burgess is fine throughout.

The story is set in 1981, and Chaves is able to build a good sense of atmosphere, capitalizing on the Satanic Panic that the decade was known for. Wilson and Farmiga are strong as always in the leading roles, showing their commitment to turning Ed and Lorraine into flesh and blood characters that we not only enjoy spending time with but also find comfortable to be around. While not quite up to the level of their previous adventures, The Devil Made Me Do It is still a decent and fairly entertaining outing for the pair, that builds to a somewhat bittersweet final scene between them.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K Ultra HD set, which I was sent for review, comes with a regular Blu-ray disc as well. There are no bonuses on the 4K disc, but several featurettes are included on the Blu-ray. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

The Occultist (4 minutes, 3 seconds): This short featurette focuses on the film’s main antagonist played by Eugenie Bouchard, and looks at how this entry into the franchise explores curses and the occult in a way that the first two films did not.

By Reason of Demonic Possession (5 minutes, 24 seconds): A brief overview at the actual case that inspired the film, including appearances from some of the real life subjects.

Exorcism of Fear (5 minutes, 47 seconds): This featurette focuses on the production design and the opening sequence, including how they recreated the actual recording of the exorcism. We learn that contortionist Emerald Wulf stood in for young actor Julian Hilliard to perform the stunts on set, and knowing that David’s disturbing contortions in the movie were done by a real person only adds to the creepiness of the sequence.

DC Horror Presents: The Conjuring: The Lover #1 (12 minutes, 51 seconds): Adapted from a spinoff comic book, this decent animated short serves as a sort of prologue to the film.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 112 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: July 24th, 2021

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