The third entry - not counting the five spinoff movies - in this hugely successful horror franchise sees real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) involved in a case of supposed demonic possession.
In 1981, a man named Arne (Irish actor Ruairi O'Connor) stabs his landlord to death and then pleads not guilty by reason of demonic possession. He had earlier been present at the exorcism of a young boy involving the Warrens, and they believe the evil spirit - who apparently has a proclivity for creative bodily contortions – has entered Arne.
The film seems to be setting itself up for a legal showdown over the existence of the devil, but we almost never return to the courtroom after Arne makes his plea (we never even see the court's reaction to that plea) and the rest of the movie has the Warrens looking into the background of the initial possession.
There is a strong atmosphere and several notable set-pieces here – one involving a waterbed stands out in particular - but this never quite settles on a consistent narrative thrust, and consequently feels a little unfocused. The most effective sequences place the viewer in the perspective of a possessed person, but the typically ear-shattering sound design does a lot of the heavy lifting, scares-wise.
As with all the core Conjuring films, this is "based on a true story", and I'm still not sure that any supernatural story benefits from such claims. There's probably more traditional gooey horror business than in the two direct predecessors, and it's vaguely insulting that they expect us to believe anything remotely close to what's depicted here actually happened.
Claims of veracity aside, audiences who have previously warmed to this franchise's sense of "classy" horror should find plenty to enjoy.
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
Director: Michael Chaves
Running time: 112 minutes
Rating: R16 (Violence, horror & cruelty)
Verdict: Unexceptional yet handsome period horror