Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It


The Conjuring movies have a draw and a repellent for me, and they are one and the same: that they are based on real-life stories. I believe in the supernatural—in demon-possession and ill-meaning sprits and hauntings. So, I am fascinated. And a bit creeped-out. But fascinated. There are few definable rules to the subject, but mostly it's a dark unknown, full of potential for exploring by way of fiction. And that's why, despite reservations, I've come to be a fan of The Conjuring movies.

Well. Up till now... 

Not only is this the most poorly made of the three films, it's also the only one in which the real-life element is thrown out the window. Of course, the first two were embellished (to put it mildly) and sometimes heavily added to to make a longer, and more cinematic, story. But parts that did have claims on reality were the same parts that gave the films their draw. The supernatural. The haunted house and demon possession of the first film. The girl being oppressed in the second, with the levitating and teleporting and the old man speaking out her mouth. So, what's true about The Devil Made Me Do It?

Arne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor) has a brother (Julian Hilliard) who's possessed by a demon. After the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are called in to exorcise him, the demon moves from the brother to him. Afterwards, he murders his landlord, and then claims that, well, the devil made him do it. But that doesn't quite do it, does it? Whether you believe the true stories of the first two films or not, the claims are scary. Reports of seeing a witch with a head that looked like a tangle of cobwebs. The little girl falling asleep in one place and waking in another. The old man's voice coming from inside her. What's scary about this story? Nothing, really. It's a loose, undetailed set of facts. There's no inherent fear. It must be invented.

"What if there's a demon/ghost in the water mattress?!?!" "HoW sCaRy!!"

There's no haunting element, so the movie brings in a witch character that curses the family and then begins to telepathically stalk the Warrens when Loraine accidentally makes contact with her. In one fell swoop the movie forgoes whatever little grasp on reality it had. It allows its witch to animate dead bodies for a cheap scare or two. Then with the planting of one little totem, she gains the ability to literally control minds and make people see whatever she wants. The only thing more annoying than this is that her mind control spell is broken by the power of love. No exorcism. No mention of God or application of His power. No rules. No reality. Just hogwash.

It's even understood in the narrative that there was no demonic possession at all; that Arne was tricked by the mind control to commit murder—which means that the movie doesn't even accept the true story's premise. And despite my being a horror lightweight, I was more scared watching The Conjuring for the third time than I was watching this. Ed and Lorraine's character story is contrived and silly—if the Hallmark channel turned horror—while the rest plays out like an unfinished sketchbook from some not-particularly-creative tween who's determined to write a hit creepypasta. A series of vignettes, with no build or significance, that continuously fall flat, until the runtime is over-filled and all is quickly solved by magic.

I doubt the real Arne was demon-possessed. Especially if it supposedly left him after the murder like they claim in the film. Demons don't just up and leave. It was more likely a successful ploy to get a lessened sentence.

For what it's worth I do believe a demon could drive a person to commit murder, but even so they still would have to have chosen to give in and do it, so this movie's title isn't a viable defense in my book. As for the crime of having made this film? "The devil made me do it" is the ONLY defense I'll accept.