The worst thing a horror movie can be is boring.
If the characters are idiots and the scares are stupid and predictable and the monsters are cheesy then the experience becomes fun on an ironic level. If the plot is nonsensical but the jump scares are half decent then at least we get a bit of an adrenaline rush and something different than if we had chosen one of the other movies screening that day. If a horror movie is dull though, there’s none of the fun, none of the kick and all those other annoying elements which would have been excusable if the movie had actually been scary come to the forefront. The third instalment in the “Conjuring” series, “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”, has none of the finesse or slick suspense of the first two and drags on for nearly two hours with a dry plot, cookie cutter characters, no decent scary bits and a seriously boring villain made even more disappointing considering it came at the back of the iconic imagery of the Nun in “The Conjuring 2”.
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is based on the true story of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, a young man who in 1981, pleaded not guilty to murder of his landlord by means of demonic possession. It was pretty sensational at the time, and I think the trial itself may have been a lot more interesting than the direction the film ended up going. Demon busting Ed and Lorraine Warren, (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are back again to kick ass and send the spirit that infiltrated the bodies of little 8 year old David Glatzel and Arne Johnson back to the underworld. That’s pretty much the story, although this time round there’s a bit of a police investigation slant to it, as this demon has been popping up over the country for a while now and the Warrens have to put on their detective hats as well as their ghost busting… pants.
It’s a pretty remarkable story considering the court case and murder actually happened, and one which would have done well if it had been steeped in reality and we had the opportunity to follow the trial and watch it all play out. We don’t get to see any of this though, and as a ghost story, it’s pretty average. There’s a pissed off demon, some creepy looking pagan altars and some reasonably impressive exorcism scenes but none of it was particularly scary or memorable. And because there’s nothing left to distract us, it’s suddenly pretty blatant how painfully boring and uninteresting the Warrens really are. Vera Farmiga in particular is actually a pretty decent actress, but the perpetual crease of concern in between her unbelievably wide eyes grew pretty tiring and I found it strange that both of them still respond with abject horror when they make contact with naughty worldly spirits, considering that it’s been their career for thirty years.
The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of a proper monster or villain, which for these kinds of horrors are important. The Nun in “The Conjuring 2” haunted me for days after I saw it, and importantly was established early in the film so we knew as an audience what we were supposed to be afraid of. In this instance, the shape and form of the demon keeps changing and it’s incredibly anti-climactic when we finally learn that the source of all the hassle is an anaemic looking woman who became obsessed with cults as a teenager.
This whole thing felt rushed, sloppy and was an incredibly disappointing conclusion to the trilogy, surprisingly so considering the source material is actually pretty unique and in the right hands could have been a fascinating and gripping watch. Instead, director Michael Chaves has slugged out an unmemorable and uninspired hash of lukewarm horror movie tropes that takes itself too seriously to be any fun but was nowhere near slick enough for the audience’s collective heart rate to transcend anything above what we experienced while watching the trailer for “Raya, The Last Dragon”.
By Jock Lehman