Where is James Wan when you need him?

REVIEWED BY Ashwini Vethakan

Based on true events’ – if there is one thing that makes a good horror movie, it’s the ability to incorporate these words into your script, and bring out a dark and believable story. That is something horror buffs have always appreciated from director James Wan – especially his retelling of real life horror stories, packed with strong actors and characters.

It is something we’ve always enjoyed since the first Conjuring movie back in 2013 and were super-stoked about the second instalment in 2016. Between the Conjuring series – which also included ‘The Nun’ – and Wan’s ‘Insidious’ series, contemporary horror movie buffs always look forward to seeing which real life story he plans to play with.

But in the latest Conjuring film – ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ – there are many things that aren’t quite right. The first being the change of director; although Michael Chaves is known for many great movies (including The Curse of La Llorona), dabbling in this particular series leaves us wincing in pain throughout the film. 

While we don’t know for sure if it’s simply a very weak real life story that was chosen, or whether Chaves entering into the horror multiverse is the cause of this particular movie’s downfall, we’ll let you be the judge of that!

The story is based on the murders committed by Arne Johnson back in 1981, which also happens to be America’s first murder case where the defendant claimed demonic possession and refused to take responsibility for the murders he committed.

This retelling has our favourite paranormal investigating couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who come to the rescue of a little boy and his family who’ve been troubled by a demon. But the exorcism takes a turn for the worse, nearly harming Ed in the process and scaring the young Arne Johnson who happened to be living with the family.

A few years pass by, and Arne now lives with the little boy’s older sister. The young couple are on the cusp of starting a new life together when Arne is suddenly possessed by a malevolent being, causing him to kill their landlord.

Later however, the young man has no recollection of the murder he’s committed and so begins one of the many pitfalls in the movie.

Ed and Lorraine are called on once more by Arne’s girlfriend who begs for their help to assist Johnson’s defence team gain ‘Satanism’ as a ruling. The couple race against time to find the main source of this malicious spirit being while also fighting their own demons.

As far as scripts go, the different random mini storylines within the main one can give you a headache. There is so much happening all at once that the film is a lacklustre shell compared to its two predecessors – which to this day, you can watch and still want to keep the light outside your bedroom switched on.

Of course when it comes to our heroes, there’s no denying that Wilson and Farmiga have come to portray two of the most iconic figures of contemporary horror.

That familiarity, down to the Warrens’ much loved hairdos and old-fashioned costume-designed clothes, is both comforting and transfixing; and somehow we find ourselves wanting to spend time with this duo and perhaps even to feel safe in their presence.

But our goodwill and sense of nostalgia for the Warrens go only so far in this third film, because no amount of acting can make up for what has to be one of 2021’s most poorly written and directed movies. 

It’s a pity really that the year’s most anticipated horror film turned out to be an epic loss for cinema.

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