REVIEW: The Conjuring 3 Blends Love and Horror

the conjuring 4 - ed & lorraine

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It may not be the scariest film in the franchise, but it just might be the one made with the most love. With energetic performances from Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, and some truly memorable supporting characters, the story juggles its two romances perfectly and only drops the ball on the real-life court case that doesn’t quite create the cinematic scope one would expect.

With a new director taking over The Conjuring franchise and Chad & Carey Hayes no longer credited as writers, it’s easy to worry that the third film – subtitled The Devil Made Me Do It – will not live up to expectations. Indeed, one can feel the lack of James Wan’s presence, although he was still involved in story-building and production aspects. But as someone who has grown to love and care for the Warrens as they are presented onscreen, this threequel has plenty of emotional highs to offer.

The fact that The Conjuring adds another young couple to the mix could diminish the importance and effectiveness of Wilson and Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine, but in fact the opposite is true. Arne and Debbie, played with a great deal of heart by Ruairi O’Connor and Sarah Catherine Hook, perfectly complement the stars of the series and their parallel stories of fear and faith raise the stakes of the story appropriately. Surprisingly, this is also reflected (though to a lesser degree) in the villain of the piece, whose tale winds up involving a warped echo of the love between the first two pairings.

the conjuring 4 - ed, debbie & lorraine

While the characters and relationship are a major high point for the film, its biggest drawback is the actual court case surrounding the events of the story. Because it is based on a real-life murder, it’s probably for the best that they didn’t stick too closely to the arguments made on the stand for fear of stepping into sticky territory. But at the same time, the court case feels like a flimsy framing device when the defense’s argument didn’t even work in the true version of events – nor does any important turning point in the trial occur on screen.

That being said, this narrative device does allow Ed and Lorraine to go on a scavenger hunt for clues and takes them outside the box of haunted houses – so it’s really worth it in the end. It also allows for more reliance on Lorraine’s psychic abilities than ever before, setting the scene for some of the biggest scares in the movie. Previously, the lack of horror in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was mentioned, but that’s not entirely accurate. It’s just that the horror is more of the general creeping fear of what might happen to our beloved protagonists – partially thanks to the heart attack Ed suffers in the opening scene of the movie, which recalls his actual death later on in life – and their new friends.

Anyone who loves romance and family dramas, but might otherwise be squeamish about horror films, should look at the latest Warrens outing as a thriller starter pack. On the flipside, horror connoisseurs may find the scares somewhat wanting – but that doesn’t taken away from the emotional satisfaction to be had in the movie. It’s clear the creative team and cast alike are deeply invested in the franchise and wish to honor the people about whom they are telling stories, and the interplay with demons, cults, and psychic powers certainly adds to the rich mythology of the film series.

As a side note: Julian Hilliard, who opens the film as the young recipient of a particularly gruesome exorcism, David Glatzel, is a marvel to witness. Having already starred in The Haunting of Hill House, it’s clear he’s a connoisseur of the genre and knows how to play all the right notes. His stunt double Molly Miller certainly helps make the first ten minutes of the film one of the most memorable movie moments of the year.

the conjuring 4 - david

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is in theaters June 4, with access through HBO Max for a month. The film is rated R for terror, violence and some disturbing images.