Quick synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren help a man suspected of murder who claims he was possessed by demons.
It would be unfair of me not to preface this with the knowledge that I am not happy with the very existence of this film. Fine, you can do schlocky horror films about demon possessions, but this is based on a real event. And not just “these people claimed their house was haunted, here’s what happened”. It’s a murder. Someone died, there are people in that town who remember that event. The victim probably still has living relatives so to trivialise the murder seems super sketchy. It’s presenting as fact the notion that the murderer was possessed by demons. I’ve had similar issues with these films in the past. They uncritically present the “yup, what this family said was definitely true” side without exploring whether they were in fact bullshitting or not. Fun fact, when someone called the Warrens out on their BS, they responded the problem with the skeptics is “they don’t base anything on God”. That’s their default position, so it’s already coming from a place of bias.
So, what about the film itself? This is technically only the third, but there has been numerous spin-offs too so it’s more like the 8th. I have seen all except the last Annabelle film, and I can barely remember anything from them except for bits and pieces from the second one (probably because I reviewed it). I remember enough to say that these films have no idea about escalation, every single case is presented as “the most deadly they have ever seen”. This has happened a lot now and I’m starting to get bored of it. There doesn’t seem to be an endgame, it’s all the same thing again and again.
This film itself? It’s not great. As I’ve said, I can’t remember too much of the previous ones, but this has been the worst of the main series by a long way. Part of it is the directing, this is the first of the main three not directed by James Wan (who was probably busy with Malignant), so it’s lacking the one thing you can normally depend on for this franchise: a slick style that glosses over a lot of the cracks the series has.
Without Wan’s directing to distract you, the flaws are more apparent. It’s just not an engaging story. It’s muddled with no clear idea of what the focus is. It’s also weirdly frustrating at parts. Shying away from things you actually want to see. The murderers lawyer points out that claiming demonic possession as a defence is a stupid idea, the Warrens tell her “come to our house for dinner and we’ll show you the evidence, we’ll prove it to you that demonic possession is real and dangerous”. It then cuts to the courtroom. So we don’t see what convinced her. What a fucking cop out.
There’s another moment which was a little odd. The film has a doctor utter the words “Yes it was a heart attack, and not a mild one I’m afraid”. Something about that line seems weird and I can’t put my finger on it. It just feels like it’s downplaying it somewhat, a really weird sentence that sounds wrong somehow.
There’s a moment where they go straight from “we need to find him, he’s in danger” to Blondie. I was going to criticise the use of Blondie as the segue as it was an incredibly bad use of it and ruined a tense line. But the director makes up for it by using it for a REALLY good jump scare, bringing the music WAY down until the character is approached and bringing it up again. Masterful and shows what the director can do. But then they use it in another scare and just slow it down, and it’s not as effective. There are some good directing ideas here, but not enough to sustain it to the end.
And lets talk about the ending. They convince the court of the possession so the guy only gets manslaughter. Everybody cheers. We then get text telling us what happened and it’s like “Yaaay this person who definitely killed someone got released after serving only 5 years, and didn’t receive any medical help.” This is supposed to be a happy ending. Knowing that a killer is now living a happy life is not a happy ending to me. Especially since the “he was possessed by demons” robs him of taking any responsibility for it.