Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga team up again as the fun and wholesome on-screen version of the legendary (and with recent rumors coming to light, possibly more infamous and insidious) Ed and Lorraine Warren, demonologists and paranormal investigators.
While the real people they portray have a lot of allegations over their careers and work and personal dealings, I think it is important to draw a distinction between reality and fiction. The Conjuring film series has taken some of the most sensational cases of the Warrens and make them into fun, watchable thrillers, regardless of what you actually think was real or hoaxed in our world. I personally feel like there is a lot more gray between the black and white people want to box things like the supernatural and paranormal in. /rant over
Part 3 in the mainline entry starts with the exorcism of a young boy, David Glatzel. The process takes a sinister turn when the boyfriend of David’s older sister begs for the demon to possess him instead of continuing to hurt the boy. All seems well, until a few days later Arne loses control and kills his landlord. The “true story” of this case focuses on the murder trial of Arne Johnson, who famously used demonic possession as a submission of a not guilty plea in the murder of his landlord. The real story and the film version begin to diverge pretty markedly after this part in the film, partly because there was a need to add an underpinning story to drive the narrative. In the film, this became the hunt for some mysterious and powerful user of witchcraft to summon the demon and cause it’s possessed victims to kill.
Ed suffers a massive heart attack during the events of the exorcism and is left with serious mobility issues, having to rely on a cane to hobble around. As a result, Lorraine becomes the lead investigating force and really shines without Ed, to his dismay. That change in the dynamic seemingly strains their relationship but ultimately makes them a stronger on screen couple. Lorraine is able to connect some other mysterious cult activity and triangulates the location of the magic user. The couple is desperately trying to break the tether of control that the witch has on Arne so he won’t die before he is able to make it through the legal process and attempt to clear his name.
In the end, they find the altar of evil from where the curse was created, and cleanse Arne from his control in the nick of time, culminating in his real life court ruling of a lesser manslaughter charge. In the ‘real life’ story, his charge was reduced but the demonic possession plea was determined to be too shaky to hold up in a court of law.
This entry in the now 8-film deep Conjuringverse continues to build on the fantastic on-screen portrayal of the Warrens by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga – there were a lot of heart felt and subtle relationship moments that felt authentic and touching despite the horror of the supernatural threat they were dealing with. Some iconic scenes at a morgue and a haunting water bed also stick with you from the moment you experience them. Unfortunately, the diversion from the real accounts of the story do end up taking away some ‘cool’ from this film in my opinion. It is certainly a worthy entry in the series, but it is not as powerful as the previous two mainline titles.