The Conjuring 3 Review: The Devil Made You Do What, Now?
The Conjuring Cinematic Universe continues this week with its latest entry, another sequel in the series proper. This is the first film in that series to have a subtitle (The Devil Made Me Do It). But you’re going to have read our review of The Conjuring 3 to see what we really thought about it.
The Devil Came Down (Went Up?) to Connecticut
As I mentioned in my post on the Conjuring 3 trailer, this movie, like its predecessors, is based on a true story. And like its predecessors, it’s VERY loosely based on the facts. Because if there’s one thing this film series loves to do, it’s take a case from the Warrens’ archives and “But like, what if it were real?” it.
image via Warner Bros Pictures
Anyway, as I said in that post, this film is based on the case of Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor). The 19-year-old, who lived with his fiance, Debbie Glatzel (Sarah Catherine Hook), stabbed their landlord to death in 1981. The film doesn’t stray from this, the most basic and provable facts about the case. It also sticks pretty close to the story when it comes to the Warrens’ involvement. (Again, as I wrote, the Warrens had been involved in exorcisms of Debbie’s 11-year-old brother, David (Julian Hilliard), who was absolutely overflowing with demons. Allegedly.)
Where it starts to drift, though, is in its explanation of Arne’s motive. Yes, as in real life, the Warrens try for a “devil made me do it” defense. But unlike in real life, there turns out to be a bit more to everything than just a simple, random (alleged) possession.
That, of course, has been baked into the Conjuring Cinematic Universe since the first movie. There was something behind all that haunting in The Conjuring, for instance. It was a witch. And in The Conjuring 2, it was…rag lung? (Sorry, I might be getting that confused with the Last Podcast episode on the same source material.)
Anyway, that’s always been one of the less necessary elements of the franchise to me. In other words, I don’t really care what’s doing it; I just want to see some spooky scaries and the capable vibes of the movie Warrens. (The real life Warrens, on the other hand, were a lot different.)
The Conjuring 3 Review
image via Warner Bros Pictures
So if that’s what you’re into, then you’ll find The Conjuring 3 to be a decent, if never that thrilling addition to the CCU. It’s a solid movie, a Conjuring movie, just like the previous films in the series. But I couldn’t help but feel as if it weren’t up to the last ones, as if something were missing.
Part of that has to do with the subject matter. There’s a “haunted” place, yes, but it’s not really the focus. Arne and his crime are, and they just aren’t that compelling enough to carry the movie. There are a few bright spots–the exorcism of David Glatzel, for instance, that opens the movie is genuinely disturbing. And so is the sequence that leads up to the murder. But again, these aren’t enough to make the movie scary or successful enough as a whole.
However, if there’s another part to the Conjuring formula besides the mostly ghostly, then it’s the Warrens themselves. More specifically, it’s the Warrens’ love story. At this point, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga obviously know these characters, so they make the story as charming as it could be. Or, again, more specifically, they make that part of the story endearing.
But they’re not the only part, of course. The bigger part is what drove Arne to kill his landlord, and that ends up devolving into a Satanic Panic-influenced plotline that just feels dated. It’s also strange that we hear so little from Debbie, especially since she’s there when the murder happens. How did she see it? What did she think? The movie doesn’t seem to be interested in her perspective, because it’s more intent on getting to the “real” cause.
Nice Exorcist reference, though (image via Warner Bros Pictures)
When it gets there, though, it feels pointless. I’m not a fan of possession narratives in general, because I don’t see the scare. Unfortunately, this movie didn’t make enough of a case to convince me. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It is now available in theaters and on HBO Max. (It will be available on the latter for about a month.)
Have you seen the movie? Let us know what you think of it or this review of The Conjuring 3 in the comments below or on our social media.
featured image via Warner Bros Pictures
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.