After spending what feels like an eternity writing about Warner Bros. most controversial property, the DCEU, it feels so good to talk about a movie and a shared universe that this studio is actually good at. That movie is the third chapter of the main continuity of the Conjuring Universe, entitled The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
I love this franchise – shit movies as well as the good ones – as it provides a neat insight into what works in mainstream horror and what doesn’t. The Nun didn’t work because the story and characters were thin, the scares so obvious as to disappear completely, and the fact that we already saw Elaine Warren defeat the demon in The Conjuring 2. The reason that two out of the three Annabelle movies work so well is because Annabelle is just waiting for a chance to cause chaos; think of her as the Joker and the Warren’s room of the occult as Arkham Asylum. Shit, no, I said I was done with the DCEU! Anyway – La Llorona was awful, that is all. But a good version does exist, for those interested.
So, it’s fun after a couple of prequels and spin-offs that we get back to the Warrens doing a case of their own, and one that, due to the courtroom setting and the plea of a man saying that he was possessed by the devil who committed heinous acts using his body, offers a different, more open narrative than the previous two movies. It offers a space for the movies not to just ask if the Warrens can defeat this particular evil, but rather, if they can even prove that this evil exists in the way they claim it does – despite the enormously silly title, it’s actually a pretty neat way to expand the universe a little. And, in a franchise in its third part, we need to see some new takes on the way that the Warrens deal with their supernatural adversaries.
The Conjuring movies are the theme park rides of the horror genre. They actually have more in common with The Mummy movie of the late 90s: both star absurdly good-looking married couples hunting the occult and focus on horror-driven action set-pieces rather than jump-scares, and fit comfortably into the blockbuster mold in a way that even much be-franchise-d movies just can’t. If you look at The Devil Made Me Do It that way, and ignore for now that it’s directed by the guy who butchered La Llorona, the trailer shows a bunch of cool set pieces meaning that this isn’t just going to be a retread of the Exorcism of Emily Rose (though, even if it was, that wouldn’t be a dreadful thing, given that that movie is a perfectly solid premise that is a little flubbed in its original execution). Michael Chaves might not have the blockbuster chops of previous entries’ director James Wan, but The Conjuring as a franchise has had enough of hit-and-miss to land on what works – and its main storyline in particular has ironed out creases and created a very solid outline to build on. The Conjuring isn’t just a franchise that gropes around to find stories to fill out the next part; it’s been a cultivation of a formula that makes for some pretty damn effective horror, and I’m confident that most anything that comes out as a part of it will keep proving that.
I’m excited, the popcorn movie fan that wants a massive mammal to fight a giant lizard equally wants to see whatever the Warrens are up to next. Just don’t call it a true story, and we’ll have nothing to argue about.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via CinemaBlend)