Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick:

Whether or not you believe in the real-life demon-slaying exploits of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the onscreen version of the couple has been at the center of one of the most consistently popular horror franchises in a long while.

James Wan’s 2013 chiller The Conjuring spawned not only a direct sequel but an Annabelle spinoff that produced two sequels of its own, plus another direct spinoff in The Nun, plus that kinda-sorta spinoff The Curse of La Llorona.

La Llorona director Michael Chaves made the jump to the main series with the third installment of the ghostbusting franchise led by Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren.

Drawing once again on the rough details of a “true” supernatural story, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opens with the Warrens in mid-exorcism. As they try to free young David (Julian Hilliard) from possession, the Warrens are unable to stop the demon from hopping out of David and into Arne, (Ruairi O’Connor) David’s sister’s boyfriend.

Under the control of the demon, Arne murders his landlord and is quickly arrested. He pleads not guilty by reason of demonic possession, leading the Warrens to take it upon themselves to prove the presence of a supernatural agent.

Whereas the first two Conjuring films were haunted house rollercoasters, The Devil Made Me Do It functions as a detective story, as the Warrens work to uncover the sinister motivation behind not only David and Arne’s plight, but a connected series of possessions and murders.

The Conjuring series is unique among horror franchises for being about the continuing adventures of heroic figures, rather than a recurring villain being the main attraction (the only other franchise that would seem to fit the bill is maybe Evil Dead). Yet with each successive film, the real-world duplicity of the Warren couple and the negative ripple effects of their con artistry becomes harder and harder to divorce from the saintly duo embodied by Wilson and Farmiga.

But people still seemed happy to welcome the Warrens back to the big screens and onto HBO Max when The Devil Made Me Do It dropped last week. So dim the lights and grab your crucifix, because we’re ready for a spooky good time.

Next Week’s Pick:

Tonight is what it means to be young.

Get ready for a rock’n’roll fairy tale like no other.

Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire is available to stream on Netflix Instant.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at) anytime before midnight on Thursday!

The Team:

Justin Harlan:

The Conjuring films, as well as the second and third Annabelle films, are among my favorite big studio horror films in recent years. It helps that my son is a huge fan, as well. However, this latest installment is not amongst the best in the series.

I still enjoyed it and it hits some good scares and story beats, but it really doesn’t compare to the first two films in the series very favorably.

However, I will say that I truly love spending time with the on screen Warrens. The fantastic actors and fantastic characters are a big part of what works in this series. It’s sad that these on screen heroes are based on two truly awful hucksters, but I choose to divorce the Warrens on screen from the real life duo of charlatans. With that in mind, Farmiga and Wilson remain a bright spot in this one.

In short, this is lesser Conjuring, but still worth a watch. You can listen to me on The Film Board podcast episode about this film here. (@thepaintedman)

Brendan Foley:

I think I’ve reached the end of the line with the cinematic Ed and Lorraine Warren, at least if James Wan is going to remain busy elsewhere.

The Devil Made Me Do It isn’t terrible or anything like that. Farmiga and Wilson continue to be at the top of their game, the detective story structure is a solid change from the previous haunted house scenarios, and Chaves faithfully recreates the atmospherics and aesthetics that made the first couple films so potent.

But the spark seems well and truly out. Chaves might nail the look that Wan established, but gone is Wan’s exacting sense of timing and geography, and gone is the exuberant, naughty enthusiasm with which Wan threw creeps and freaks at the screen. The Devil Made Me Do It ultimately ends up feeling like an expensive episode of Supernatural, plodding through its procedural beats to get to the next scare section. Which are generally not very scary.

The real bummer is that there’s one genuinely great and original fright setpiece, the waterbed attack, but not only did the trailers show the entire sequence in full, but it occurs as a flashback after we’ve already seen that the characters involved are perfectly unharmed, effectively deflating any even theoretical tension.

So, not a bad entry in the series, but the Conjuring movies either need a major shot of new blood, or the Warrens might need to be put on ice for a bit. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

I haven’t really dived into the various spinoffs in the “Universe” that revolved around The Conjuring, but I’ve enjoyed each of the mainline series. The chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga has anchored the series as a sort of overarching love story told as chillingly effective horror stories. That continues and is even amplified in their third outing, which bolsters the importance of their love to the narrative, while putting them up against a new threat.

The newest entry is perhaps the weakest of the three, and the least “believable” , but nonetheless a solid outing with plenty of spooky fun. As characters at least, the Warrens are a really fascinating duo and I continue to enjoy their weird adventures. (@VforVashaw)

More on The Conjuring 3:

Next week’s pick:

Previous post Past of the Furious: FATE OF THE FURIOUS Tears the Family Apart
Next post RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT: Spotlight on a Legend