As anyone who knows me is likely aware, I’m no fan of the conjuring movies. Well, to put it more accurately, I’m no fan of what I feel they represent for the horror genre. The films themselves are well made and acted albeit pedestrian and devoid of actual scares. This latest entry follows the same tired obvious formula of the Warren’s battling some sort of supernatural entity.
Beginning with real-life ghost busters The Warren’s assisting in the exorcism of a possessed child (though they aren’t ordained so…?) we are witness to body contortions and a lot of spittle. Teenage Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) picks up young possessed David and yells over and over at him “take me instead”; but even though everyone’s attention is on the child apparently no one but Ed (Patrick Wilson) hears it.
Arne goes on to murder an incredibly annoying character who we had only met five minutes before and the Warren’s convince him to use demonic possession as his defence in court.
Lots of exposition, flashbacks, and portentous dialogue follows, as Ed and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) work on finding evidence to support their claim.
Arne, fighting his literal demons in prison, takes on the pasty white complexion of a corpse, but is never attended to by a doctor, the prison chaplain just slips him some holy water and tells him god believes in self-defence.
The Warren’s do a little side crime-solving and morgue bothering as well as reminiscing about how they met -aww.
There’s a convoluted story involving occultists, satanic alters, curses and conveniently ‘found’ ancient books that spell out exactly what to do. It all leads to an unfocused and saccharine ending that does a true disservice to the real life story; not to mention that anyone hoping for some courtroom drama will also find themselves sorely disappointed.
This is tediously overlong and over egged, a fussy and unengaging movie that feels like a stretched short story. There is no need for this to be two hours long. At all.
The screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (what a mouthful!) and James Wan is hugely derivative and oddly flat. There’s never any real sense of danger and it steals liberally from many better horror films, most notably The Exorcist 1 & 3, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. There are things here lifted whole cloth from other movies, that line about ‘believing in the devil because we believe in God in the court room’? re-purposed from a similar sentiment in Miracle on 34th Street; that hallway transformation jump scare? Lifted in its entirety from The Prodigy, which was out less than two years ago.
To be fair, it would be hard these days to make a film about exorcism that doesn’t harken back to other movies, but the blatancy does bother me a lot. The direction by Michael Chaves (of the forgettable The Curse of LA Llorona) is perfunctory though he does manage to telegraph the jumps from a mile off and overstays in some scenes.
The acting from both Wilson and Farmiga is of course great, they are very good at what they do; but I hope they don’t make more of these, both actors deserve better.
I am reminded of a quote from Ari Aster when discussing his motivations for making the sublimely horrific Hereditary – he wanted to make a horror like they used to, one that would really hurt for years to come; essentially, he wanted to fuck you up. The Conjuring films’ only ambitions appear to be separating the audience from their money via a slick machine of cheap jump scares and a recognisable brand. This isn’t the only film to operate in this way, but The Conjuring has created an entire universe behind it and I for one, resent it.
Watch something better.