The films “The Conjuring” offer a fascinating glimpse into the American psyche. Based on the lives of Northeastern paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the franchise demands that viewers invest in a worldview governed by Christian dogma, where divine good must fight satanic evil. “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is by far the most well-constructed and terrifying entry in the franchise, but its plot hinges far too much on that same bizarre evangelism.
“The Devil Made Me Do It”, directed by “The Curse of La Llorona” director Michael Chaves, opens with a skillfully styled exorcism. Thick Fog presents a series of towering angular shots as Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) strive to free an 8-year-old boy from demonic possession. Top notch sound mixing and booming score keep this streak tense, even exhilarating, as the demon moves from his child host to unsuspecting Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor). In a series of even more frightening scenes, a possessed Arne later stabs his owner to death. It is then up to the Warrens to prove that Arne is not guilty due to the satanic curse.
As with “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2”, the film is based on the actual escapades of the Warrens, and the couple attempted with Johnson’s attorney to mount a defense against possession. But the film conveniently attributes Johnson’s manslaughter (rather than murder) conviction and his meager five-year prison sentence to the Warrens’ efforts, though the court has rejected their demands in earnest. It also strongly implies that Lorraine Warren, armed with celestial psychic powers, is a more skilled investigator than the police and preaches marital devotion as the ultimate divine weapon. (The latter is a staple of the franchise.)
“The Devil Made Me Do It” is a perfectly frightening work of fiction. It would be even better if he favored the macabre over the gospel.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Rated R for child contortions and a shower of blood. Duration: 1 hour 52 minutes. In theaters and on HBO Max.