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Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in a scene from The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.

Ben Rothstein/The Associated Press

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  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
  • Directed by Michael Chaves
  • Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
  • Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Ruairi O’Connor
  • Classification R; 112 minutes

Although its title says otherwise, the latest Conjuring film is not the work of Satan. That would imply some deliciously evil malevolence – a truly unholy force that would be impressive in its unparalleled wickedness. Instead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is merely the product of lazy, entirely mortal filmmakers who, having found themselves with an impressively lucrative no-frills franchise, recited a Hail Mary of dubious intent.

Technically the third film in the Conjuring series following real-life husband-and-wife “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren – but really the eighth film in an ever-expanding Conjuring-verse that features prequels and side-quels and spinoffs – The Devil Made Me Do It is a resolutely pedestrian kind of horror.

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If you want nothing more than a few CRANK THE VOLUME jump-scares and some impressive occult-y set design, then this is your kind of Hell. For more discerning cinematic sinners – including those who were impressed by the moody first Conjuring and the kicky kitsch of its spinoff Annabelle Comes Home – here lies been-there-exorcised-that darkness.

Taking place a few years after the events of The Conjuring 2, in which Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) investigated a British poltergeist – with a quick stopover in Amityville – this new adventure finds the couple battling Satanists in 1980s Connecticut. Based on an infamous murder trial in which the accused, a young man named Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), claimed demonic possession as a defence, the film tracks the Warrens’ efforts to both prove the impossible and stop it from happening again.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a resolutely pedestrian kind of horror.

The Associated Press

By centring their story around a sensational legal case, director Michael Chaves (who made his debut with the drippy 2019 Conjuring-verse entry The Curse of la Llorona) and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick had the opportunity to tweak a genre that’s so far been impermeable to horror’s influences. But reinvention is not something that the filmmakers – nor franchise mastermind James Wan – are interested in.

Rather, The Conjuring 3 (The Con3uring?) is another semi-spooky ghost hunt, complete with walking corpses, creepy priests, and so many allusions to past horror movies that you begin to wonder whether Chaves intended to tip his hat to, say, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4′s waterbed scene or simply ripped it off unconsciously.

Fortunately, Wilson and Farmiga have now transcended “slumming it” to “elevating it,” and give much-needed fresh life to characters, and predicaments, that feel as ancient as the evil which Ed and Lorraine battle over and over. And good on actor John Noble, too, for popping up and making the line, “A master Satanist is not an adversary to be taken lightly,” sound like something that someone, somewhere, at some time, might actually say with a degree of seriousness.

Ultimately, there is no resisting the Conjuring-verse’s supernaturally profitable reign of terror. With two more spinoffs currently in development, it’s clear that the producers’ prayers have been answered. But me, I’m still agnostic.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is available on-demand, including the Cineplex Store and Apple TV/iTunes, starting June 4, the same day it opens in Canadian theatres, dependent on public health restrictions

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In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.

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