Paying the Devil His Due; 'Conjuring' Sheds Eerie Light on the Dark Side

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Paying the Devil His Due; 'Conjuring' Sheds Eerie Light on the Dark Side

True story tellers do not need special effects as "supporting" cast, Effects should blend in , perhaps, a little sheepishly with a screen tale screeching almost unbeknowst  to the film. That's not a 21st Century trend, but when a film horrifies  with "normal" objects injecting terror into the veins of moviegoers whose eyes are glued to the screen.

"Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" delivers from its opening scene --- an eight year old   named David in urgent need of an exorcism already shifts to seizures as contorted limbs and evil smiles plunge you into this shifty supernatural plunge into supernatural scares all jelled ever so fiendishly together. 

While witnessing the exorcism, the young boy's foaming and convulsions motivate Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor),the boyfriend of David's sister Debbie sacrifices himself inviting the demon to "take me" instead of David. It's not too long thereafter that the man stabs his landlord 22 times and is spotted wandering on  the highway uttering, "I think I hurt someone."

Long-story short, that leads to an eventual murder case where the defendant is claiming demonic possession as a motivation, which turns Ed Warren ( Patrick Wilson)  and  wife Lorraine ( Vera Farmiga) into supernatural gumshoes.

Based in part on a true story (the claim of demonic possession at a 1981 trial which the judge tossed), director Michael (The Curse of La Llorona) Chaves relies on ordinary objects, cellars, Satanism, and dark lighting to inserts sneaks and shadows. He begins with a box of cereal , flowers, a chainsaw and a spewing waterbed, which stirs  the trail  of  witches tokens and Satanic alters.

Apparitions, a ghastly demon, and a series of haunted tunnels soundly secure production design. Ed and Lorainne convince an attorney of their experience exposing the paranormal activity through her extreme sensitivity  contacting and interacting with the ghouls that haven't settled into Hell. 

Chaves excels at stunning yet subtle effects, especially utilization of spirits possessing his wife that flawlessly flow as near mini-flashbacks. Her touching of objects that  bring shivers down anyone else's spine mix flawlessly with Ed's  "don't let it in too far" warnings solving what would have been confusing interruptions. 

 The Conjuring franchise began as a typical "House on the Haunted Hill" 50s shocker. After a few spin-offs and prequels ("Annabelle," "The Nun") the producers have consistently mixed Catholic beliefs, the decency of the ghost-busters, and here Chaves held off extravagant exorcisms (no cussing and spewing green vomit). The husband and wife team toss family ideals down dark cobweb and rat infested cellars full of scary secrets.  

Pondering "Devil Made Me Do It's" association with Satanism , the "legal" proceedings are  sliced to briefness. Until then , I had a sly smile about the alleged  "from a true story" foundation. The production assumes a dark spiritual universe pounding its rituals and evil in a manner not lacking credibility (or comparison) to ways in which Christians and believers in God accept the presence of , for instance, guardian angels. Please do not mistake this comparison as against faith. No, faiths hold a variety of beliefs and rituals. "Devil Made Me Do It" postulates evil entities scrounging  demonic will for those venturing too closely to  seeking dangerous occult inquiries that may open a cursed portal to the Dark Side.