The Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It (15, 111 minutes)
In November 1981 Arne Johnson became the first person in US history to plead not guilty to murder on the grounds of demonic possession. The judge was having none of it and Johnson was eventually convicted of first degree manslaughter, serving five years in prison.
When this latest film in the series claims to be based on a true story, that’s the truth part. The rest relies partly on tape records of the case investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren (which the older son of the family involved here disputed and actually went on to sue Lorraine years later when she wrote a book about it), but mostly from there it’s very much a case of artistic licence.
Dramatisations of real events always have an unsettling taste of trying to rewrite history for me, but at the end of the day, if looked upon purely as a piece of entertainment, even though it’s not quite up the its two predecessors it more than holds its own with other movies of the genre, which so often suffer from uninspired story arcs.
The exorcism of a possessed young boy takes a turn when the demon gives Ed a major heart attack before jumping elsewhere.
The discovery of a witchcraft totem beneath the house indicates that this is more than a random possession and a subsequent murder sets off a race to find the person responsible for calling up the evil.
All the usual scare tricks are utilised here – in fact the film would have benefited from a few more jump out of your skin moments – along with two instantly recognisable homages (or plagiarism, you decide) from The Exorcist in the first few minutes which if William Friedkin ever gets around to seeing it will have him choking on his cocoa.
Yet despite all that, this turns out to be a good (but not great) satanic yarn kept afloat by its stars, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga once again as the devout Roman Catholic Warrens engaged in spiritual warfare to save souls in danger from dark forces.