Midway through “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) delivers a brilliant line. “The court accepts the existence of God every time a witness swears to tell the truth. I think it’s about time they accept the existence of the Devil.” How can our legal system lean on one belief without even acknowledging the existence of the other? The simple logic behind it is quite compelling. Unfortunately, that’s one of the only moments of logic in this eighth entry into the Conjuring Cinematic Universe.
The Conjuring Franchise is made up of two parts. Both the first and second “Conjuring” movies were loosely based on events that real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren have described in their case studies. The three “Annabelle” films that exist within the franchise are entirely fiction, although based on an actual doll the Warrens kept locked in their basement museum. Then there’s “The Nun” which is sort of a monster-movie prequel that takes place in Romania and “The Curse of La Llorona” which is again, complete fiction based on a Mexican folk tale. “The Conjuring 3” teases that it’s also based on a true story, but the real story is so thin, screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick is forced to use excessive amounts of creative license.
In July of 1981, the Warrens were assisting in a particularly nasty exorcism of eight-year-old David Glatzel (played with remarkable energy by Julian Hilliard.) These opening moments of the movie are the most exciting. Excellent camera work, creepiness heaped upon creepiness, and fun references to “The Exorcist”, all present with an ungodly fervor. The young boy survives the exorcism and the Warrens go home. A few months later (days in the movie), David’s sister’s boyfriend, Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) murders his landlord. It was the first murder in Brookfield, Connecticut’s history. It was also the first time in American history that a defendant pled “Not guilty” by reason of demonic possession. That’s where the true story ends.
In this version of events, the Warrens become a light mixture of detectives and action heroes. Lorraine participates in multiple Vision Walks and blasts a foe with a telekinetic blast while remote viewing. Ed squares off against a massive reanimated corpse while battling a bad heart. Together they solve another, potentially related murder. This all leads to the most shocking thing of all. For the first time in the Conjuring series, there is a human villain! Another Disciple of the Ram, first mentioned in “Annabelle”, is specifically targeting others with ancient Satanic rituals.
Ed and Lorraine are the heart of the movie and it’s hard not to enjoy any scene Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are occupying. There are some great cinematic moments sprinkled throughout the movie. But the mix of hokey logic and over-the-top spectacles make it feel more akin to an entertaining adult Scooby-Doo episode than the next chapter from the Warrens’ casebook.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It