The Conjuring franchise is an interesting anomaly in the cannon of horror history. It is its own free spirit – if you’ll pardon the pun – manifesting itself in various guises (a ‘Raggedy Ann’- doll; an evil nun; a crooked man; the Devil) but consistent with one common link: paranormal investigating couple Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The first instalment began development in 2012 under the working title The Warren Files, and the finished film was retitled The Conjuring. If movie-goers had known then that there’d be so many off-shoots of the original saga, The Warren Files would have made a great title. Still, The Conjuring suits the spirit-attracting essence of each of the subsequent movies whatever subtitle comes after it.
What’s brilliant about the latest instalment, subtitled ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’, is that it doesn’t aim to out-do the original or its successful follow-ups. It even opts to incorporate elements of the past pictures into this one, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
There is one scene where Patrick Wilson’s Ed insists to a sceptical solicitor that the spirits he and his wife work to conjure are indeed real – and evil, adding “We’ll get you to meet Annabelle some time”. The line is met with knowing laughter from the audience but also a sense of spookiness because we know that bitch doll can really wreak havoc – so imagine what the Devil himself could do?
The storyline of The Devil Made Me Do It is simple enough. A demonically possessed kid is finally exorcised – only the spirit has now entered the body of his martyr-playing big brother. After committing a brutal homicide said bro is thrown into prison and it’s up to Ed and Lorraine Warren to prove he only murdered by possession so as to get him out of jail or at least earn him a lighter sentence.
The Warrens are led to the underground – literally under the earth and through tunnels – to find the source of the curse that caused the demonic possession, so as to smash the altar where the curse was made and thereby reversing it.
Much of the second half of the film is set underground – the Warrens making their way through a proverbial rabbit warren, if you will. The damp, dark environment allows for plenty of literal slip-ups and pop-up scares – some you’ll come to expect; others surprising even the most jaded of horror film viewers.
The Conjuring has quietly been building up its own cinematic universe but unlike previously popular horror franchises – like Saw and Nightmare On Elm Street – aspects of The Conjuring movies appear more organically formed and less organised in a film studio boardroom.
Vera Farmiga knows her character inside out and whether she is stuck in the early 1970s or early 1980s, she brings simultaneous strength and vulnerability to the role of Lorraine Warren that makes you really feel for her, whether you wish to invest much belief in parapsychology or not.
That said, the one thing I wondered about with this film is who on earth was in charge with the wardrobe? The character of Lorraine looks like she’s dressed less for 1981 and more for the early industrial age – all puffy blouse and bumpy skirt. Even the real Lorraine – when we see pictures of her in the closing credits – appeared to have a more structured and cooler ’80s aesthetic about her.
Still, I could watch Farmiga in any film wearing any wardrobe and I’d be happy. I even put up with action train-wreck The Commuter for Farmiga’s 15 minutes of brilliance on celluloid.
Fans of The Conjuring franchise will agree she does much justice to this latest instalment, and if you had to choose between this film and another new release, such as A Quiet Place: Part 2, definitely go with this one.
‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is in cinemas now.