It’s been five years since we last met the Warrens after The Conjuring 2 dropped the original setting for the successful horror franchise and transported them to a more quaint part of the world - the English suburb of Enfield. This is a welcome addition to the series that has already gone in multiple directions with spin-offs that include The Nun and the Annabelle series. The Warrens have always been the heart of The Conjuring. The stories are less about the horrors that plagued the Amityville era and more about how instrumental the couple was in discovering the spine-chilling mysteries that ran beneath the surface of these strange occurrences.
What is the story about?
In The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It, the Warrens help out a young man, Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who was charged with the murder of his landlord Alan Bruno in 1981. The mystery, goes without saying, is much more than that. The defense is created on the premise that a demon has possessed Arne while he was present at the exorcism of his younger brother - the film’s horrific opening scene. Over the course of the film, the Warrens discover a skull-like totem that uncovers even more secrets about the demonic presence.
Directed by Michael Chaves, who takes on the mantle from director James Wan, The Conjuring 3 is far from the worst title in the franchise. To give credit where due, the screenplay veers away significantly from the first two films to ensure that even if it is Ed and Lorraine Warren investigating and helping victims of the supernatural, the repercussions of the possession go beyond the peril that plagues the victim himself and his family. Arne’s troubles are worsened by his possession and then the demon quickly leaving his body, thus defending his position of being possessed becomes even more difficult. But to dramatize the story itself, Chaves opts for unnecessary sensationalism. The opening sequence is genuinely terrifying, and we hope that the film will maintain that momentum. But some of the scenes are unintentionally comedic, when they are sprinkled with histrionics by the actors, or even stunted formulaic dialogue.
Some scenes smattered across the film do deliver. Especially the ones that feature children in danger, because that’s always terrifying. Note the one featuring the most terrifying water bed in history. And then another superb sequence where the Warrens invite a lawyer over to their home to give insight into their work. We snigger knowing what is to happen during that rendezvous. In that sense, The Conjuring elevates its purpose as a horror film. But as a mystery that also wants to delve into the element of evil in humans, beyond the supernatural, that’s a risk that doesn’t really pay off.
Over the course of these years, Farmiga and Wilson have become synonymous with the Warrens in popular culture, and they do not disappoint. As always, they lend dignity to the real-life couple, with their affection and understanding towards each other as much as the care with which they handle their own work, and finally, how it ties in with the extended part of their family. Ruairi O’Connor does a great job as the possessed. Julian Hillard is also a great addition to the cast. All the actors do a great job.
Music & Other Departments
In terms of technicalities, all the elements in these films are efficient. There are enough knee-jerk moments in terms of cinematography, editing, and sound. The score is heightened and lowered at the relevant moments. But the film still feels manufactured in a studio, much more than its prequels.
Is good acting enough for a horror film? Doubtful. But they certainly deserve credit in keeping this middling affair afloat.
With each film in the series, direct sequel or spin-off, we seem to be getting further away from what set the first film apart - what it meant for a horror film to be based on true life. Some Googling and I realize that The Conjuring 3… well, never really happened in reality. Anyway, perhaps that’s why the plot isn’t as interesting. Real-life is way better than any fiction.
Did I enjoy it?
There are a few scenes here and there, and it takes very little to scare the hell out of me. But there are better horror films in the world, so I’m not impressed.
Do I recommend it?
I feel this to be a waste of time for a home viewing. And I don’t see any value in risking your life and going to the theatre for this unless you’re a big horror fan. I’d be skeptical.