Let me be honest: I’m not a huge fan of the Conjuring series.
Kevin, my dear and darling co-writer and life partner and cat-co-parent, is – he’s made that pretty clear in his time writing on this blog, and I have watched a lot of these movies along with him, waiting for that one moment where things would click and I would start to feel the same way that so many other people seemed to about the franchise. Aside from Annabel Comes Home, a hysterically silly babysitter horror, which I still adore, I never quite got the series. Not that I disliked it, but it just didn’t click for me in the way it seemed to for Kevin and the rest of the Conjuring world’s fans.
Enter The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It, though, and I think I might just have figured it out. Around the same time that I’ve seen a whole lot of fans declare this the worst movie in the franchise yet. Call me a contrarian, but I love this movie, and I want to talk about why.
I mean, I could talk about Michael Chaves’ direction here, how gloriously stylised everything is – the great soundtrack, that recurring use of Blondie’s Call Me to signify demonic activity (unfair, but alright). The scares are good, the performances are solid, and the focus on a more human antagonist allows for a different and more procedural approach to this story than the previous outings. A sly sense of humour pervades the whole affair, keeping it from getting too lost in the seriousness of much of what it explores.
Set a significant amount of time deeper into the Warrenses career, The Conjuring 3 is much more focused on Lorraine and Ed as a pair of lovers (not that way, you creeps). And let me tell you, I am a sucker for a love story (writing and reading them), so this spoke to me right off the bat. While the movie ostensibly builds itself around a case of alleged possession and murder, it’s really about exploring the Warrens and their relationship – their physical and spiritual fallibility (after Ed suffers a heart attack at the start of the film), and, above all, how their love binds them together.
Something that helps a whole hell of a lot here is how much chiller both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play this version of their characters – there’s less of the sense of them as a pair of goody-goody Christians here, as the two of them bounce off each other with sly inside jokes and a fond familiarity that beds them in a real chemistry. They’re not just symbols of what the film needs them to be – in the case of the previous two films, the Great and Unmovable Catholic Good – but closer to real people, their affection for each other filling out the movie with a genuine warmth that gives things more of a human feel that before.
And it’s that love that drives the plot. After spending a couple of movies with the Warrens, it only makes sense that this third part focus in on them more directly, and it pays off in a major way – Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have been awesome together from the off, and it’s only in their third shot at the Conjuring franchise as leads that they really get to flex their chemistry and acting chops in a way that serves the story.
I know that not everyone comes to horror looking for a love story, but I happen to adore the way that the Conjuring 3 weaves romance, affection, and the history of a relationship as a major part of the central horror narrative. This is the first time that this series has really clicked for me, and it’s because the Warrens finally feel like real, fallible people instead of symbols for something the movie needs them to inhabit.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Den of Geek)