Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
THE CONJURING franchise stands not solely as a spooktacular series, but also a ringing testament to the strong love and respect shared between the real life Ed and Lorraine Warren. The demon-hunting duo were married for decades, using their skills to examine supernatural, super scary happenings, hauntings and possessions. One of their darkest cases was that of Arne Johnson, who claimed he was possessed when he killed a man. This real life story provides the frightening fodder for THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT. However, while the third chapter in the paranormal investigators’ ever-growing saga aims to crawl under the skin, it also gets into audiences hearts, thanks to the performances from stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
Farmiga, at the film’s recent virtual press conference shared that these films have always read, to her, as a love story – not a horror story.
“They are the personification of love. That’s what makes it so unique and successful — and that’s why I enjoy coming back. I think that message of love — not only the Warrens’ for each other, but for the work that they do and for the people that they help, that selflessness, that compassion, that embodiment of love – is really, really something holy and special, and that makes it digestible and beautiful.”
Patrick Wilson reminisced about his first talks with producer James Wan about these characters.
“I always go back to the first film and those conversations, James, that you and I had early on about the way that the structure of these films is going to be built following these different cases and these different families, but really centered around the Warrens. They become the through line between all these films. That’s something that sets us apart from other horror franchises.
The fact that I think James’ conversations that we had early on in the first one where you knew you’d get to the scare, but you knew you had to build the character and the relationships. We already were leaning into character and relationship and love and partnership in these movies. When you have that, you know that you can center around love.”
Wilson was quick to clarify that their portrayal is really their own creative interpretation of the real Warrens.
“We don’t know how they were behind closed doors. It’s our version of what Ed and Lorraine are. It frees you up to go as dark as you want in the other aspects, because you really get to balance it out.”
The affable actor also believes the darker aspects of the horror story allow for the love to shine brighter.
“I would say that this film probably has some of the darkest moments of any in the [Conjuring] universe. But like you have those moments in this of just this deep profound romance, because we don’t go halfway with either. If you’re going to have these terrifying scares, then we want to have the most full-of-love moments that you can, because it does become very operatic.”
Wilson says he, Farmiga and the filmmakers have worked diligently to preserve the couples’ love on screen throughout each of the Conjurverse films.
“I see their relationship through the eyes of what we need in the film, meaning I love their unbridled love. I love their devotion to each other, to themselves, to their religion. I love Ed’s steadfast strength. So the progression that we see is because of the previous films, and we kind of demand it now: we want to see what happens to a couple that just loves each other? What can we do to these guys?”
He admits that, while playing Ed again didn’t necessary yield any new insight into his understanding of his character, it did deepen his working relationship with Farmiga and awareness of why these films work more successfully than his romcoms.
“What’s so wonderful about this Ed and Lorraine that we’ve created is that we’re able to just, it sounds so romantic, but to really let it fly, let it go with their love for each other. There’s so many romantic sequences in this movie that you just wouldn’t have — I’d say in any other movie, but you’d have them in a CONJURING movie because James did it in the other one! And it’s so wonderful to be a part of that, to find that possibly the most romantic moments that I’ve had on screen are with Vera in a horror movie.
Romantic comedy is a lot [of] trying to find the edge. Is it funny? Is it this, is it that? And we have this baseline of deep horror. It transcended the horror genre. And so as we get to come back to these guys and really embrace their love, we feel like we can just keep going with that, because we know we have this baseline of real horror. So playing the opposites is always, it’s always fascinating and thrilling.”
Farmiga countered that she did uncover a new perspective on Lorraine’s relationship with Ed, particularly when it comes to how he makes her feel.
“Lorraine loves Ed, not only for who he is, but who she is when she’s with him. That discovery came about because we delve deeper into her gifts and her abilities as a psychic, this time around, the nature of their detective work and seeing what they did as demonologists, her ability gets put to the test, her clairvoyance gets put to the test, and we get to see other aspects of her clairvoyancy; different types of cognition. Precognition, retrocognition, remote viewing, not only the telepathy and clairvoyance, but there’s other aspects and facets — and she’s able to do what she does because she has his support. So diving deeper into her abilities, for me, part of that love is her loving who she is when she’s with him.”
THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT opens in theaters and begins streaming on HBOMax on June 4.