Last week, many UK cinemas re-opened their doors for the first time in months, following a string of COVID-related closures. The opening week provided a gentle re-start for cinemagoers, with the likes of Peter Rabbit 2, and Those Who Wish Me Dead easing audiences back into socially distanced auditoriums. 

From this week onward, things are ramping up a gear. UK audiences are no longer being gently nudged into cinemas; they are being actively enticed.

Ladies and gentleman, we are now heading firmly into blockbuster season, and that means you should expect to see a whole heap of tentpole releases hitting the big screen this week, next week, and for many weeks to come. Big movies are now arriving thick and fast, and one of those heavy hitters arrived in cinemas today!

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie is The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which is the eighth entry in Warner Bros. Picture’s incredibly successful horror series, The Conjuring Universe. This is a cinematic universe which includes the likes of The Nun (2018), The Curse of La Llorona (2018) and Annabelle Comes Home (2019).  

Now, I am a big fan of this universe, and I have been looking forward to the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It for quite some time. As with many of the big releases of 2021, this was a movie that should have been in cinemas last year, but due to the pandemic it was bumped from its 2020 release date and I have been patiently waiting for it to make its debut ever since.

Directed by Michael Chaves, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor and Julian Hilliard. The movie is based on the real-life trial of Arne Chevenne Johnson – a young man who used demonic possession as his defence in court, when he was accused of murdering his landlord back in 1981.

In the movie, paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren are called in to investigate the supposed possession of David Glatzel. After examination, the Warrens discover that David is indeed possessed by a malevolent force and attempt to free the boy from the demon’s clutches.

But things go wrong, when Arne Johnson – the boyfriend of David’s sister – intervenes and invites the demon to take over his body instead. He believes he is saving David from torment and is strong enough to withstand the demon.

At first, it appears as if Arne is correct and the demon has failed to take a hold of his body, but a short while later, Arne begins to feel unwell and after a frantic episode, he kills one of his friends. He is subsequently arrested for murder, and his case is taken to court.

At the beginning of the trial, Arne’s lawyer argues that Arne was possessed by a demon, so was not responsible for his actions – something which the Warrens agree with. But both the lawyer and the Warrens know the defence won’t stick unless they can find proof to back up their claim.

As the movie unfolds, Ed and Lorraine dig deeper into the case to try to understand where the demon came from. And the more information they uncover, they more they learn that this isn’t an isolated incident.

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures

As mentioned above, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is in UK cinemas from today. However, if you live in the US, you will have to wait until June 4th to see the movie, but you will then have the option to either watch it in cinemas or in the comfort of your own home via HBO Max. 

If you do have to wait, then don’t sweat it too much, because this is a Conjuring movie with plenty to enjoy, once the opportunity arises. However, I should point out that while this is a very enjoyable entry in this series (more about that in a moment), this isn’t a particularly scary Conjuring movie.

As someone who watches a lot of horror movies, I don’t get scared very easily, but I can still gage what is deemed scary and what is not. With the exception of a couple of little moments early on, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It offers very little in the way of frights, and while I personally don’t see this as a bad thing, I do understand that some audiences only watch horror movies to be scared.

I don’t find the lack of scares here to be a bad thing, because the strength of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It lies in the atmosphere, the story, and the relationship between lead characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren. All these elements are what make this movie work so well, with the relationship between Ed and Lorraine being the real highlight of this picture.

It has been noted before by other horror fans, but it’s worth noting again, that the Conjuring movies that feature the Warrens tend to be the strongest entries in the series – and this is true in this movie too. The chemistry between actors Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, as Ed and Lorraine, is perfect and they become the central focus of this movie.

Their love story forms the backbone of the narrative, and while I may not have found myself jumping at demons and ghouls, I did find myself becoming concerned about their safety in this story.

These characters constantly put themselves in danger, and with this movie in particular, I found myself very invested in their every move, and contemplating their future in this cinematic universe. So, no major scares, but a fair bit of worry on my part about how well they would fair against the forces of darkness. Speaking of which…

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures

In a departure from the previous entries in this series, the main foe of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is tangible – yep, this isn’t quite the same ethereal bad guys and gals that we have seen before. The CGI ghouls utilised in other movies are largely absent this time around, and instead this movie focuses on a real-world villain.

Too often, this series relies heavily on CGI creations, but no, this is kept to a minimum this time around. That means there is no Ferryman in this movie, no Crooked Man, and barely a mention of Annabelle or Valak – notable stars from earlier movies.

In fact, there are no characters like these guys in this particular entry, which means for the first time in a long time, this is a Conjuring movie that doesn’t feel like it is setting up two or three future instalments. Far from it in fact – The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It feels more like a self-contained tale. Sure, you will get more out of this movie if you have followed Ed and Lorraine’s journey through previous films, but if this is your first introductory to The Conjuring Universe, you won’t feel lost or confused about what came before or what is being alluded to.

I really appreciated this approach. I don’t mind a few hints about what is to come, but this series was starting to get bogged down in superfluous side-characters, so it is refreshing to see it cut a few ties, and also introduce a different type of villain.

It is also refreshing for the story to largely move away from the ‘haunted house’ angle that has also been a mainstay of the series so far. There are elements of it here, but there are also other parts of the movie which branch off, giving this a slightly different flavour.

Director Michael Chaves previously helmed The Curse of La Llorona, and I feel like he has taken his experiences on that film and used them to shape a stronger picture here. And that’s not me throwing shade at The Curse of La Llorona – I liked that movie – but I believe this movie works much better.

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures

For me, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a fairly solid film. The lack of scares may disappoint some, but what it loses in the fright department, it makes up for in the characterisation and story.

This franchise is now eight pictures in and things could have really turned stale, especially after the prolonged wait because of COVID, but everything is balanced nicely. I felt myself instantly reconnecting with this world, and the movie held my attention throughout.

I would certainly be up for watching another entry. Heck, I would watch a million Conjuring movies, so long as Farmiga and Wilson are involved, and I hope Warner Bros. are standing by with a bag full of cash to ensure they return, because they really are the biggest draw of all these pictures.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a fine instalment in this series. It doesn’t necessarily push the envelope, but this far into The Conjuring Universe it was never likely to, and instead it provides two hours of entertainment with a slightly new feel to proceedings – and that works for me.

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