Supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are back for another spooktacular Conjuring film, but how does the trilogy capper — subtitled The Devil Made Me Do It — stack up to its predecessors? Right now, the sequel holds a 71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the lowest-rated entry in the shared horror franchise (the other two, which were both directed by James Wan, hold scores of 80 percent or more).
With that said, 70 percent is still a passing grade, so let's see what critics are saying about the latest outing for Patrick Wilson (Ed) and Vera Farmiga (Lorainne). "The Devil Made Me Do It is certainly slick," writes David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter. "DP Michael Burgess’ camera adopts unnerving angles and prowls insidiously through one sepulchral-looking space after another, and the groaning soundscape works in tandem with [Joseph] Bishara’s big scary-ass score to creep under the audience’s skin. But the palpitating storytelling loses its way while trying to do the same."
Ok, but what's the film (helmed by The Curse of La Llorona director Michael Chaves) about? In this spine-tingling adventure, the Warrens find themselves at the heart of a real-life murder case involving Arne Johnson (played onscreen by Ruairi O'Connor), the first person in American history to plead demonic possession as grounds for acquittal. As Ed remarks in the trailer: "The court accepts the existence of God every time a witness swears to tell the truth. I think it's about time they accept the existence of the Devil."
Variety's Owen Gleiberman writes that Devil Made Me Do It "lacks that kinetic haunted-house element" of the first two flicks in the Warner Bros. series. "It’s the most somber and meditative and least aggressive of the Conjuring films. It’s out to deepen the series’ portrait of the Warrens, and damned if Patrick Wilson, with his gentle tenacity and Pat Boone grin, and Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine the psychic in high Victorian collars and embodies her gift with a feverish purity, don’t succeed in making Ed and Lorraine the coziest fighters of evil the movies have ever seen."
IndieWire's Kate Erbland also praises the two main actors in her C- review for IndieWire: "Farmiga and Wilson, who add incredible human emotion and dimension to their roles, are as good as ever, nearly making up for the lack of human drama elsewhere."
"Chaves has none of Wan’s malevolent mojo, his talent for wringing shivery joy-by-way-of-fear from every spring-loaded appearance by the franchise’s growing roster of apparitions," posits A.A. Dowd in their review for The A.V. Club. "Look, for dispiriting example, at how prematurely he punctures the tension of a seemingly foolproof set piece on a waterbed. Wan plays us — and this material — like an accordion. His replacement plays the notes but not the music."
Luckily, Ed and Lorraine have reclaimed some of their own missing "mojo," writes Neil Smith of Total Film, "thanks to a twist-filled, pacy chiller that ditches the normal haunted-house shenanigans in favor of the kind of itinerant paranormal procedural that was once The X-Files’ bread and butter."
But if you're looking to return to theaters after a year-long sabbatical (courtesy of the novel coronavirus), then you could do a lot worse than this movie, according to Forbes Entertainment's Scott Mendelson. "The film is a polished and IMAX-worthy horror movie, still dedicated to authentic 1970’s detail, slow-burn scares and rooted in two highly charismatic marquee heroes. Seven films in (eight if you count The Curse of La Llorona),The Conjuring remains a unique cinematic concoction and the Warrrens remain viable as genre-hopping heroes."
Creeping into domestic theaters and onto HBO Max this coming Friday (June 4), The Devil Made Me Do It has already scared up $3.9 million from ticket sales abroad. David Leslie Johnson McGoldrick (The Conjuring 2, Aquaman) penned the screenplay.