Running time: 112 minutes. Rated R (terror, violence and some disturbing images). In theaters and on HBO Max.
The devil made me watch it!
That’s the only reasonable excuse for why my body didn’t get up and leave after the first half of the latest film in the “Conjuring” franchise. OK, the devil and my paycheck.
Based on the 1981 case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, the first American to claim demonic possession as his reason for committing murder, the movie called “The Devil Made Me Do It” starts out fine enough.
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, are back in that infamous hotbed of occultism — Connecticut — when they’re called to help a family whose little boy’s body can suddenly contort into unnatural positions and whose voice now sounds like Darth Vader’s.
The pair stages a pretty funny exorcism, and during the rite, the demon leaps into the body of 19-year-old Arne (Ruairi O’Connor), the kid’s sister’s boyfriend.
Possessed, Arne then goes and stabs his poor landlord to death, under the influence of the evil spirit.
OK, so that ends the true-ish part of the story. But there is still over an hour to go. What director Michael Chaves and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick therefore do is akin to food companies that sneak sawdust into grated Parmesan cheese. “The Conjuring 3” is a big mouthful of sawdust.
On their long and convoluted road, Ed and Lorraine pursue a boring old murder they believe to be spiritually connected to the latest crime. Lorraine is also a psychic and goes into vivid trances in which she witnesses past events. The vulnerable Farmiga, saddled with a cockamamie plot, is miraculously always great in these movies.
In the packed second half, there’s a gaunt witch without a discernible motivation — other than wanting to hang out with the devil, and we keep meeting this one zombie who reminds me of an early-career Meatloaf. At one point, a character named Drew (Shannon Kook) says, “My Latin is a little rusty” as he translates a spell book.
The sappy final moments, suggesting we were really watching a love story all along, are major groaners.
Devil, make a better movie.