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  Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The The Ol' Possession Excuse
Year: 2021
Director: Michael Chaves
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O'Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble, Eugenie Bondurant, Shannon Kook, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Keith Arthur Bolden, Steve Coulter, Vince Pisani, Ingrid Bisu, Andrea Andrade, Ashley LeConte Campbell
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: 1981, and paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, a husband and wife team who see demons at every turn, were overseeing the exorcism of a little boy which quickly turned violent, the child contorting his body and screaming while a mysterious energy filled the room and caused mayhem. They were convinced this was the Devil himself doing this, and the boy's friend Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor) demanded the demon possessing him take Arne instead, which appeared to happen. Peace returned, but the consequences would be terrible, as soon he was suffering all sorts of hallucinations and worse, impulses...

Well, the consequences were not terrible for the Warrens, once again they made a small fortune by elbowing their way into the lives of the impressionable and gullible, much as we had seen in the previous two Conjuring entries. But those films lacked a certain something to make them come across as even more important: nobody had died at the Enfield Poltergeist haunting, so the filmmakers had had to include a demon killer nun to spice things up. Luckily, with part three they were able to get their teeth into what they had wanted all along, an actual murder when Arne was accused of killing his landlord and put in the highly unusual plea that he had been possessed when it happened.

Naturally in the courtroom, the judge said in not so many words that this was ridiculous, and besides there were witnesses to say Arne was a bad drunk, and he had been under the influence of alcohol rather than Satan when he committed the crime. Obviously this would be a short movie if they stuck to the facts, so instead the narrative spun off in the direction of seeing the Warrens battle with a cadaverous Satanist lady (Eugenie Bondurant), since it was better for this series to demonise women rather than make a depiction of a real-life killer as anything less than utterly sympathetic. Poor lamb, we are supposed to think, it was the evil spirits that were commanding him, not his drunken behaviour.

Really this was the Amityville 2: The Possession of The Conjuring run, since that too had an embroidered version of a dubious story as a blockbuster first effort in its franchise, so when the sequel demanded to be created (by the profits, something the Warrens would doubtless find appealing), they opted for a genuine tragedy to embellish. In that second Amityville item, just as here, a murder was central to the plot, and just as there director Michael Chaves turned that tragedy into a carnival spook show, complete with jump scares and endless harping on about Satanists in the manner that evoked the Satanic panic of the nineteen-eighties, an invented fiction designed to drum up support for evangelicals in the guise of saving the souls of children.

Never mind that children were far more vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse by the religious than any made up bogeymen with black candles and animal skulls in the woods, but that style of misdirection was the Warrens' stock in trade. Did that mean the third Conjuring was offensive? In a way you could read it in that fashion, but it was so removed from reality and so intent on going "boo!" at regular intervals in a blatant method of taking the audience on a cinematic ghost train that you began to admire its cheek in spinning out its nonsense for so long, sequels and sidebars and all. The Warrens were not good people, and a more interesting angle would have been to present them as the villains, fleecing their victims with their false piety, but with Lorraine keeping the filmmakers under her thumb even from beyond the grave, you would only view that approach in a satire or spoof. Yet as a mightily sustained bad faith argument, to get this tasteless this far into the franchise took some achieving. Music by Joseph Bishara.

[The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is available on Digital now and arrives on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD September 6th 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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