So tonight I had the pleasure of making another trip to the cinema since they re-opened, and tonights film was The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. The eagerly awaited and anticipated third Conjuring film (ninth in the franchise), and I'll be honest folks after waiting so long for it to release I was anxious it wasn't going to live up to what I hoped for and expected. I'll be happy to begin this review by saying I had nothing to be worried about; in short it's a great film and a strong entry into the franchise. Spoilers are contained at the bottom of the article following a spoiler warning. Enjoy folks!
A chilling story of terror, murder and unknown evil that shocked even experienced real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. One of the most sensational cases from their files, it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then takes them beyond anything they'd ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a legal defense.
As a lot of may know due to our recent article (The Real-Life Case Behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) or your own research, the film is inspired by the true crime of Arne Cheyenne Johnson. A 19-year old male who killed his fiancée's boss (and landlord), Alan Bono, after stabbing him over 20 times in the chest and abdomen. How much of the accounts and this film you wish to believe is entirely up to you; but it made for a pretty good horror film.
Straight off the bat I'll admit I knew this was going to be different from the previous two Conjuring films. The first two start somewhat slow and give the audience more of a chance to prepare themselves for the latter of the film; you do not get the luxury of that nice calm false sense of security in the opening to this as it goes from 0-100 miles an hour very quickly. The film opens on the Exorcism of the then possessed David Glatzel, Debbie Glatzel's younger brother. Young actor Julian Haddard (The Haunting of Hill House) really goes all out for this opening, you get little glimmers of his acting ability throughout but this was just fantastic. This and Haunting of Hill House combined, I think he is going to go onto have a long and successful career within the horror genre. I don't want to spoil much here but for me it felt like all the best parts of The Exorcist got crammed into one scene, and then director Michael Chaves decided to throw in some Evil Dead for good measure.
Now that may sound like a lot but it really wasn't overkill. It was a fantastic way to open a Conjuring film...go hard or go home. And by this point we are well familiar with The Warrens and what they do (as well as familiar face Father Gordon, played by Steve Coulter, from previous instalments. It sets up the film nicely, and in keeping with the Warren's source material we see the Demon leave David and possess Arne.
The story from there does progress from the explosive opening scene at a steady pace and it doesn't really seem to drift off or veer too far in the wrong direction. We all know what we expect and what we are used to with The Conjuring films, but whilst the foundations remain relatively the same this film is completely different to its predecessors. The scares (and jump scares) were there, the eerie lighting, the beautifully haunting long shots, the quick and well articulated editing was spot on...yet the film was completely different. What director Michael Chaves and writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick have managed to do is take this franchise in a new and exciting direction. Yes the horror element and everything that makes The Conjuring films so beloved by horror fans remains at the forefront but this is essentially an investigative thriller. Interviews from cast and crew before this films release stated Se7en was an inspiration behind the film, and you can clearly see the links between the two.
Another change I welcomed as well was this took The Warrens out of the 'Haunted House' setting and grounded them much more in reality. For me this made things much more frightening. If you want one of The Conjuring films to be more grounded in reality, then this will be your new favourite film. And it provided what I felt was a refreshing take on the whole demonic possession storyline (which lets face it has been done to death). I can't go into detail here out of fear of ruining the film but the story takes an unexpected turn.
I will warn you up front though if A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master didn't scare the shit out of ever owning a water bed...this will. And it will near enough to ruin the iconic Blondie song 'Call Me'...I'll not be listening to that again unless I want to send shivers up my spine. The cast was fantastic, I'll be eager to see more of them all within a horror film setting. No over-acting or forced scenes at all. Was a great mix and decent chemistry on screen. As for the way it was shot, it took a slightly different approach. I felt it worked better and didn't overload the viewer with too much time looking at whatever was lurking in the dark, which it turn made for a much more frightening viewing experience. As Stephen King once said in an interview there is nothing more terrifying than your own imagination.
"The scariest, most terrifying thing that I fear? Yes. My imagination. I thought you were going to say "Fear, itself." Then you have a small imagination."
My only complaint with the film is I would have loved to have seen more of David's possession, as from what I've read it sounded terrifying. With the focus being more on Arne Cheyenne Johnson and The Warrens dealing with his possession, we only got small glimpses of what happened to young David (Oh My God that water bed scene though). All in all the film kept the heart, soul and spirit fans have grown to appreciate since The Conjuring universe started in 2013, but it dared to do something different. For me it was a new and exciting direction for the franchise to take, I throughly enjoyed it and would probably rank it second best behind The Conjuring 2. It made for a more realistic well-crafted film, with plenty of scares. Michael Chaves has redeemed himself from The Curse of La Llorona! As for the ending, it ended on a nicer, happier note as the previous films have done. As for what the future holds, I have some ideas but due to events that took place in the film, I'll have to chuck you guys a spoiler warning immediately.
Of course a big talking point from the film is Ed having a pretty bad heart attack following that opening scene. He struggled throughout the rest of the film, once nearly costing Lorraine's life and twice nearly killing himself. Hats off to Warner Bros as they managed to keep that under wraps pretty well!
Of course Ed Warren did in fact die of a heart attack in August 2006 with his health rapidly declining in the last five years of his life, and I'm beginning to wonder if the ending was a nod to the audience. Almost as if to say either "This is the End" or "This is the beginning of the end." Not for the franchise of course but for the films predominantly involving Ed & Lorraine Warren. Of course there are future films planned for individual characters that may or may not involve Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga, but the way this ended it just felt like it was being hinted towards that. Especially with the flashbacks of how they meet and then the gazebo he built for her in their garden...sort of just felt like the perfect ending for them both. Whether or not it will be, we'll just have to wait and see. They were involved with several other high profile cases after this so you never know!
As for the twist, I didn't see it coming at all. I had sort of guessed it just before Ed did in the film to Kastner's involvement. I didn't see the whole witches curse mixing with demonic possession angle coming though. As I said above I felt it was somewhat refreshing to a storyline/horror trope that has been done to death. It will be interesting to see if that demon does make some sort of appearance in any of the later films though!
Either way, it's a great film and a strong addition to the franchise. So get your arse in a cinema seat (especially as they need us now more than ever!)
Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it, now I'm off the bed. Well I'm going to try to sleep after that film...