The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Written by Alexander Reams

59/100

Some will always say that the third film in a trilogy is the weakest, sometimes that is true, and sometimes it isn’t. This is the unfortunate instance where that rule is true. In the past 10 years the horror genre has had a resurgence, a fall, and another resurgence. Starting in 2013, after an abysmal year for the genre, in walks James Wan with his newest horror project, The Conjuring. One of the most notable and recent entries in the “serious horror” genre, the film focused more on characters and their relationships with one another than the scares. Characters have always led to the best scares in horror films. This is a lesson that the Conjuring-verse films forgot about after the first film, but were reminded with the second. With one film in particular applying this, Annabelle Creation (2017). However, after the critical failures that were The Nun (2018), The Curse of La Llorona (2019), and Annabelle Comes Home (2019). The Conjuring was due for a resuscitation in quality, and to a degree that happens in this film. However this is also the first time in the trilogy that the film begins to care more about the scares than it’s characters. 

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson have been playing these characters for over 8 years now, and with that comes good and bad. What’s good and borderline great about their performances is that over the time of these films you can see their relationship grow, just like in a marriage. Their flow on screen together gets better and better with each film. With their relationship being the best aspect of this movie. According to the films, they met 30 years ago, and it’s been 10 years in this universe since our introduction to this couple, according to the dates given. Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona), clearly let these actors do whatever they felt was right and trusted them to keep with the tone and style of relationship as the previous films. I definitely view this as a positive mark on the film because the last film Chaves made had very poor acting and direction. This time it is only in the direction that he stumbles. Valuing jump scares and set pieces over character development caused it to blend into numerous other generic horror films that audiences have grown accustomed to rather than a distinctive piece unto itself. 

One of his few saving graces is the way he shoots this film with DP Michael Burgess. Particularly in the last half hour of the film, the wide shots are beautifully captured on the Arri Alexa and Alexa Mini with Panavision lenses. Scenes in the medical bay of the prison are beautifully lit to create very macabre images which in turn make this film visually stand out in a way that the previous films hadn’t. While this film does not live up to the original films in the trilogy and is disappointing in terms of quality, I am not surprised that it was what it was. The direction is not even close to the level of James Wan’s and strays too far from the path that was laid before it. Despite this, it still stands very tall over the other various unwanted and poorly made spinoffs that this universe birthed along the way.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Trailer

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is currently in Theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Spiral

Written by Alexander Reams

94/100

Spiral is the newest entry in the long-running, and presumably exhausted, Saw franchise. In preparation for this film I finally trekked through the franchise and fell into a weird appreciation and borderline love for this series. This newest entry shows the legacy that John Kramer has left while a new copycat continues his work and reigns terror on police. 

Chris Rock as Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks is the latest protagonist of the Saw franchise. This is a significant change of pace and genre from what we are used to seeing Rock in. Not only is he the lead, he also developed this film from the ground up, is an executive producer, and did the story treatment. This is truly his baby and his passion shows in every scene. Sharing the screen with Rock is Samuel L. Jackson as “Marcus Banks”, Zeke’s father, and Max Minghella as Zeke’s partner “William Schenk”. 

This film is a departure from previous entries in style and substance. The direction of the film, from previous director Darren Lynn Bousman, is far less frenetic. Which leads to making the story and traps easier to watch and less visually confusing. The quick edits and shaky cinematography that has been a staple of the Saw franchise is nowhere to be seen. The camera movements are slow and methodical, almost like a voyeur on the investigation taking place. The editing is intentional, only cutting when absolutely necessary, and never too often. 

The gratuitous blood and gore is toned down to make it more effective when it does happen. Instead the film leans more towards scares and disturbing imagery which constantly pushes the film’s atmosphere to more and more grisly places. This film is a welcome breath of fresh air in this 17-year long franchise. Chris Rock gives what may be his greatest performance yet and seeing him, Max Minghella, and Samuel L. Jackson on screen together is a wonderful combination, the screenplay is a cherry on top.

Spiral Trailer

Spiral is now playing in theaters.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter.