‘Conjuring 3’ tops ‘A Quiet Place 2’ as moviegoing returns

Vera Farmiga (left) and Patrick Wilson appear in a scene from “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.”

The Conjuring” franchise continues to grow with the latest entry “The Devil Made Me Do It.”

It’s the third film with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the eighth film overall when you add in the “Annabelle” movies, “The Nun,” and “The Curse of La Llorona.”

Eight films in the franchise is starting to show a bit of tread on the tires, although “Devil” still manages to get by thanks to a slight shift in style from its two predecessors and the wonderful work of Wilson and Farmiga. They have such natural chemistry that it is easy to just sit back and enjoy the ride, even when it all gets a little too convoluted for its own good.

“The Devil Made Me Do It” begins with a great opening sequence that involves the Warrens participating in the exorcism of a young boy named David (Julian Hilliard) that ends with Ed nearly dead, Lorraine haunted by visions and the demon apparently vanquished.

While David is no longer possessed, it turns out the demon is now in Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) the boyfriend of David’s older sister. When Arne commits a brutal murder, he convinces Ed and Lorraine that the evil force was the reason he committed the crime – sending the couple on a quest to prove his defense.

The story is based on a real-life court case where demonic possession was used as the defense, so “Devil” has more of a “Law and Order” kind of setup than the haunted house element that worked so well in the previous films.

While this one is more procedural, it doesn’t stop director Michael Chaves from creating a few wonderful horror sequences – one involving Blondie’s song “Call Me” that is as fantastic as any horror film in recent memory.

But those thrills come at a much slower pace than fans of the series have come to expect and a reveal of what is behind the possession feels like the writers are just trying to introduce another possible spin-off.

Even as it threatens to jump the tracks, Wilson and Farmiga keep “The Devil Made Me Do It” grounded with their wonderful chemistry. It’s kind of relatable and refreshing that these characters remain so down to earth while everything around them is so chaotic.

It’s clear that Wilson and Farmiga enjoy these characters and bring that joy into their work. “The Devil Made Me Do It” may be a step down from the previous two films, but the two leads remain in top form – carrying this installment to at least a satisfying conclusion.