Overlong and exploitative, The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It is a non-essential addition to the Conjuring Universe. The series started out great back in 2013 with the relatively unassuming original. The Conjuring was something of a surprise. It was that rarest of horror films—immensely commercially popular but also well-received by critics. It was basically a good, old-fashioned haunted house movie that relied on suspense and the unseen for the majority of its scares and atmosphere.
It was loosely adapted from the case files of the real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Because these two fraudsters had many “case files,” that unassuming sleeper hit spawned a host of sequels and spinoffs that continue without signs of stopping. The Warrens are both dead (Ed in 2006, Lorraine more recently in 2019), so I will exhibit respect for them as people, in general. But honestly, I have zero respect for their “work,” which exploits some folks’ willingness to actually believe in literal “demonic possession.”
Even if you happen to be one of those suckers, ahem believers that is, The Devil Made Me Do It is a really dull, unscary slog. It runs just about two hours, feels like three, and probably should’ve been a 45-minute TV episode (if anything). Given the focus on characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren, this third installment provided an opportunity to really showcase the actors portraying them—namely Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. These two fine actors have played the fictionalized versions of the Warrens each time out, but here, in Devil Made Me, there is a heavier focus on the pair.
Unfortunately, both Wilson and Farmiga are wasted, presented essentially as the same cardboard-cutout ciphers as the other films. The Warrens are investigating the murders committed by Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor). This was, in fact, a real-life case and the first time someone’s official legal defense was “demonic possession.” Instead of following the facts, or even a loose version of them, the filmmakers turn to an increasingly over the top expansion of the actual story. This would be fine if it provided the kinds of jump scares and creepy atmosphere of the previous Conjuring Universe entries. But the cult and their altar and various demonic artifacts becoming boring (and somewhat confusing) in this jumble of half-baked ideas.
Conjuring junkies can delve into the Blu-ray extras, which are admittedly pretty slim. There are three five-minute featurettes and, more interestingly, a storyboarded short film (of sorts, it’s all comic book-style panels) that presents an all-new story, The Conjuring: The Lover #1. Maybe a fleshed-out version of this could’ve served as the basis for a better third Conjuring feature. As it stands, The Devil Made Me Do It is the weakest, by far, of any film spawned from the original film. Hopefully future films will ditch the “based on a true story” elements and just present a well-written (and suspenseful) original concept.