Release Date(s)2021 (August 24, 2021)
Studio(s)New Line Cinema/Warner Bros Pictures (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: D
The Conjuring series began in 2013 with the successful first film, followed by the second three years later, as well as several spin-off films. In gestation since the second film was released, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (now billed on home video as The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It) continues the spooky adventures of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played dutifully by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) are called to the residence of the Glatzels, whose young son David (Julian Hilland) is currently the victim of demonic possession. Initially there only to document, the church quickly approves an exorcism on the family’s behalf. Once it begins, chaos ensues. Ed suffers from a severe heart attack and the demon inhabiting David enters the body of David’s sister’s boyfriend, Arne (Ruairi O'Connor). While Ed recovers in the hospital and all seems to have quieted down, the demon within Arne later comes forth and forces his hand to murder. Facing prison, the Warrens become involved with Arne’s case to prove that he was possessed by a demon at the time the murder was committed. Once Ed recovers, they begin their investigation, which leads them to the secret occultist Isla (Eugenie Bondurant) and her wary father (John Noble). Being that this is no ordinary case since the powers of darkness are heavily involved, Ed and Lorraine are now faced with their greatest adversary yet.
This third entry in The Conjuring series is immediately frustrating. In these films, there’s usually strong character development with characters you can actually get behind and scares that rely more on atmosphere and visuals, despite the heavy-handed religious overtones. This time around, we spend even less time doing that. And the problem is not that the film has more jump scares than previous films. Jump scares, like CGI, are not inherently bad if used judiciously and with purpose, but if it’s the only card in your deck, it allows the film to fall head first into mediocre territory, which is rampant in many modern horror films. The Conjuring 3 is certainly a little more pedestrian in that regard, but that’s not the main issue.
The film’s biggest flaw is its narrative, which is severely unfocused compared to the last two films. The innocent families just trying to get by and faced with supernatural problems that we grew to care about in previous entries have now been replaced by a family that, well, doesn’t get a lot of screen time. We’re mostly told about them in flashbacks and the film never takes the time to get to know them. Characters are also scattered to the winds, forgotten about for many minutes before returning. Attempts are made at heartfelt moments, but the story never earns them. Performances are generally strong and there are great scenes and visuals to be had, but the story is messy and is far more concerned with the monsters than their victims. And being that the film was rewritten quite a bit before going before the cameras, that process definitely diluted the original material. As such, The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It is a disappointingly flawed third chapter in a trilogy that started strong, but has descended in quality.
The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It was captured digitally by cinematographer Michael Burgess in the ARRIRAW codec (at 2.8K) using Arri Alexa Mini and SXT cameras and anamorphic lenses, and it was framed at 2.39:1 for its theatrical release. For this Ultra HD, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has upscaled the DI and graded the image for high dynamic range (HDR10 only is available). It’s a technically proficient presentation from top to bottom. Digital photography tends to leave a bit of visual depth on the table, but this is a consistently pleasing image with only minor drawbacks. It’s sharp and nicely-detailed, with clear definition in all respects. Shadow detail and color are enhanced by the wider gamut, which deepens blacks, boosts highlights, and improves fading transitions. The film has a slightly aged appearance, with hues used effectively to achieve this look. The CGI elements don’t blend all that well, but the other imagery is well-represented.
The primary audio options include English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 TrueHD compatible), English 5.1 Dolby Digital, and English Descriptive Audio. The Dolby Atmos track is a mostly effective experience, immersing the viewer with a variety of atmospheric effects all around the sound stage. The interiors of Father Kastner’s home creak, the underground tunnel sanctum of Isla echoes and drips, and the woods—when Ed and Lorraine investigate the murder of Katie Lincoln—have an open air feel with winds and reverberations. Dialogue is mostly front and center for the majority of the presentation, and the height channels really only come into play during chaotic moments, such as the exorcism of David Glatzel in the opening scene, though the score beefs up the rest of the track nicely. It’s definitely an aggressive mix, with good low frequency activity and plenty of surround moments, leaving little to complain about. Other audio options include French, German, Italian, and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD and German Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Korean, Spanish (Latin), Norwegian, Chinese (Simplified), and Chinese (Traditional).
The film is also included on Blu-ray in 1080p with the following audio options: English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 TrueHD compatible), English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio (US), English Descriptive Audio (UK); French (Canadian), Spanish (Latin), Italian, and Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital; and Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, Italian SDH, Spanish (Latin), Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Korean, Greek, Bulgarian, and Romanian.
Inside the package is a Digital code on a paper insert. Everything is included in a black amaray case and housed within a limited slipcover. There are no extras to be found on the Ultra HD disc, but the Blu-ray disc includes the following, all in HD:
- The Occultist (4:03)
- By Reason of Demonic Possession (5:24)
- Exorcism of Fear (5:47)
- DC Horror Presents: The Conjuring: The Lover #1 (12:51)
These bonus materials are brief and not very informative. In The Occultist, the filmmakers and actors talk about the Isla character. In By Reason of Demonic Possession, they discuss the original case and how it’s portrayed in the film, though it does feature one of the survivors of the case. In Exorcism of Fear, they talk about the exorcism as seen in the film. The Conjuring: The Lover #1 is a digital motion comic that features two additional tales set within The Conjuring universe, including The Lover and Tales from the Artifact Room: The Ferryman, as well as Macabre Mail Orders. It’s a fun addition, though it doesn’t make up for the lack of quality bonus materials. Even the film’s trailer is missing in action.
The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It is far from being considered a poor film, but it’s not one that measures up to its predecessors. If the story and its characters had been a little more focused, it might have had a better impact. As is, it’s a mildly effective horror film with good performances and slick visuals. The film’s Ultra HD release is the best option available in terms of visual and aural quality, but fails to provide a satisfactory extras package.
- Tim Salmons