(KGET) — “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is the seventh film in the “Conjuring” franchise and fatigue has replaced the sharp tension that made the other offerings in the creepy series work so well. That shift doesn’t mean the series is ready to give up the ghost. It continues to work because of strong performances by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as the very loving Lorraine and Ed Warren.
It’s the work by the two actors playing the real-life paranormal investigators that has been the constant from the first film in 2013. They have portrayed the couple as having a deep enough love to fight back the darkest of spirits. That love has never been stronger – and more needed – than in this offering.
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” follows the lead of the previous films as it is based on a true story. The Warrens are called in to watch the exorcism of an 8-year-old boy. They soon realize that this is not as much a case as demon possession as it is dealing with a curse that has been placed on three people.
What starts as a battle for a soul becomes a fight for a young man’s life as he faces the death penalty for a crime the Warrens say was the work of the Devil. The trick is to prove their case when this becomes the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect claims demonic possession as a defense.
Any franchise – especially one that deals with horror – will have its edge dulled by the repetition of elements used to strike fear in the hearts of the viewers. There are only so many times when a bump in the night will create a scare or that a creepy cellar can cause shivers.
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” has those very familiar elements and fans of the genre will see most of the attempted scares coming. The way Chaves has brought new life to the franchise is to make a shift from being less a tale of terror to more of a mystery. The focus no longer are the scary bits and more about putting together the puzzle pieces.
There are a few scares but nothing as interesting as watching the Warrens try to decipher the mystical clues. At the same time they are dealing with elements in their own life including Ed’s heart problems.
This was the opening Chaves – who directed “The Curse of La Llorona” – used to add some life to this series about the dead. Every scene with Farmiga and Wilson has a loving energy that draws attention away from the less interesting elements.
All of the “Conjuring” films have been enveloped by an evil darkness. A steady dose of this approach can lead to a tale becoming emotionally and spiritually tiresome. It’s the light that comes from the love of the central players that helps eliminate some of the darkness and that brings the sparks of life so desperately needed.
There is a point where even the love that Farmiga and Wilson play so boldly will begin to fade. It will be at that point that it will be time for “The Conjuring” franchise to be given a final burial. Farmiga and Wilson have come through one more time and the shift of more of a mystery suggests a final resting place for the series can wait at least for one more film.
The biggest problem with “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is not the predictable attempts at scares but the name. Using the phrase “The Devil Made Me Do It” in the title comes painful close to a parody. They have an excuse as it comes from a real-life statement but the phrasing just sounds too close to comical for such a dark tale.
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is now playing in theaters but it will be available for 31 days for those who subscribe to HBO Max.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, John Noble, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook
Running time: 112 minutes.
Director: Michael Chavez
Rated: R for violence, scary images, terror