Warner Bros continues its year of the at-home blockbuster with the hotly anticipated release of the newest instalment of arguably the most prolific horror franchise of all time. The Conjuring Universe has taken the horror world by storm with a unique take on classic subject matter, but can the franchise that started it all continue to thrive under new leadership? The answer is a mixed bag of truths.
Director and Producer James Wan started this franchise in 2013 to explore the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a real-life married couple who specialized in demonic and supernatural hauntings. The franchise became so well branded that it gave birth to wildly successful spinoff franchises like Annabelle and The Nun that all link back MCU style to the Warrens. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have continued in their iconic roles since the first film. This is the first proper Conjuring film that is not directed by Wan, which for better and worse, is blatantly obvious while watching The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
The Devil Made Me Do It is directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) and follows the Warrens attempting to prove in court that a murder suspect was possessed by a demon. The franchise makes a unique pivot away from the horror genre and into a murder mystery, which is a great attempt to revitalize the franchise. Chaves gives the story a larger scale that Wan always shied away from, but at the same time losing the artistic distinctions that define Wan’s portfolio. The result is a high-quality film that checks all the boxes of the franchise but feels more like a Conjuringspinoff than a main instalment.
The Devil Made Me Do It continues to carry on the best and most unique parts of the franchise. The franchise’s biggest strength is its ability to provide definitive rules for the supernatural. Most supernatural horror franchises opt for a strong reliance on suspension of disbelief, but The Conjuring creates a situation that redirects suspension of disbelief just to the rules provided instead of the entire story. This helps analytically minded viewers grasp the concept of the supernatural with ease, which is framed as the Warrens’ mission throughout the franchise.
The soft pivot to murder mystery/true crime elements of the franchise does a lot for the entertainment value of this film, but it lacks the iconic elements that usually define The Conjuring franchise. There is no villainous figure on the level of Annabelle or The Nun, which this franchise is famous for creating. The villain role is taken in a unique and entertaining direction, but at the expense of it being forgettable and non-essential to the franchise.
Wilson and Farmiga continue to lead the franchise with incredible charisma and chemistry, but the characters never seem to evolve and eventually run the risk of being over exposed if the franchise does not attempt to continually keep things fresh. The supporting cast all does an excellent job with what they are given, but once again the franchise does not attempt to plant roots to expand beyond the Warrens.
Overall, if you are a fan of The Conjuring series, The Devil Made Me Do It is a great instalment and well worth the viewing experience. The only critique I have to offer is to the entire franchise. The Conjuring Universe has some amazing achievements under its belt, but its potential longevity depends on how Wan and the other leaders of the franchise choose to evolve the brand beyond its current stagnation.
Filmnetic Grade: A-