The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) ☆☆(2/4): A subpar entry in the series

To be frank with you, I am not a big fan of “The Conjuring” (2013) and its several sequels and spin-off flicks. Yes, most of them are competent products while not entirely without entertaining aspects, but I usually observed their supposedly scary moments from the distance instead of getting really terrified during my viewing, and I have also been getting quite accustomed to their usual tactics including those typical false alarms to be followed by expected “Boo!” moments.

I was surely well aware of what I was probably going to get from “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”, but the movie turns out to be more pedestrian than I expected. Again, we are served with a number of spooky moments involved with demonic possession, but you will not see much novelty from that especially if you saw its predecessors before, and the movie will disappoint you more for its rote handling of story and characters.

The movie, which is set in 1981, opens with what can be regarded as one of a few highlight moments in the film. When a young boy of some ordinary middle-class family living in Brookfield, Connecticut seems to be suffering from a dangerous case of demonic possession, Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are brought into this disturbing circumstance, and we see them and the family preparing for an exorcism ritual to be performed by a local priest who is soon going to arrive there. Although things seem to be under control on the surface, the circumstance becomes quite urgent even before the priest arrives, and we surely get lots of bangs and crashes as everyone in the house is shaken up by that demonic force in question.

Anyway, that unfortunate boy is eventually free from whatever has been tormenting him, but, alas, there is one big problem. Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), a nice lad who happens to be there as the boyfriend of the boy’s older sister, lets that demonic force transferred to him as desperately trying to save the boy at the last minute, and it does not take much for him to sense that something is going very, very, very wrong in his mind. At first, he often sees strange and disturbing things, and, not so surprisingly, his condition only gets worse and worse after that point.

In the end, Arne finds himself mired in sheer confusion and terror, and that inevitably leads to the gruesome death of one of his acquaintances. Shortly after the incident, he is quickly arrested and then incarcerated in a state prison, and everyone in the town including his girlfriend is certainly shocked a lot by this horrible incident.

Although he already knew what might happen to Arne, Ed could not prevent the incident as being unconscious for a while at a local hospital due to a serious heart problem resulted from that wild exorcism event, and he and Lorraine soon embark on proving that Arne is under that demonic influence. When they visit a female lawyer lawyer representing Arne, the lawyer is understandably skeptical, but she somehow changes her opinion after visiting Ed and Lorraine’s house, and we get a little amusing moment as she flatly argues at the court that her client is a serious case of demonic possession.

After finding a very sinister clue at the boy’s house, Ed and Lorraine comes to discern that they are facing a trouble much more serious than they thought at first, and they later come to consult an ex-priest who knows a lot about demonic possession and curses involved with that. The basement of this ex-priest’s residence is full of sinister stuffs which make Ed and Lorraine’s personal collection look rather pale in comparison, and Ed and Lorraine look around these stuffs with horror and fascination before asking a few important questions to this ex-priest.

As Ed and Lorraine gradually get closer to the origin of their supernatural case, the movie tries to hurl more shock and terror upon us, but the overall result is not that scary at all because of being too predictable more than once. You may be jolted once at least, but then you will not be surprised much as seeing through its very apparent pattern of shock and suspense, and the screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick fails to generate much interest from the mystery at the center of its plot, which, to our disappointment, is handled in very contrived ways.

In case of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, they are dependable as usual. Although I still think the real-life counterparts of their characters were nothing more than charlatans, Wilson and Farmiga’s diligent acting brings some sincerity and personality to their characters, and we care about their characters to some degree even during the pedestrian finale unfolded within an ominous underground space. In case of the other main cast members including Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, and John Noble, they are mostly stuck with their functional supporting roles, and O’Connor manages to leave some impression during his several key scenes in the film.

In conclusion, “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”, which is directed by Michael Chaves (He previously directed “The Curse of La Llorona” (2019), by the way), is subpar compared to its two predecessors, and I give it 2 stars mainly because I gave 2.5 stars to both of its two predecessors. Besides “The Exorcist” (1973), whose certain iconic moment is blatantly quoted early in the film, there are better movies in its genre territory, and I assure you that you will be more scared and entertained if you watch them instead of this rather mediocre piece of work.

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