Let’s go to trial.

Come watch the newest sequel to one of the best horror films in recent years. Follow scam artists, er, Christian superheroes Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) battle their fiercest foe yet: the director of La Llorona and a police procedural script.

What?

To make sense of the third entry, let’s briefly recap the other films. The first one is perhaps the most effective classic haunted house story to come out in recent memory. For the second entry, we have a bit of a recap, but strong characters and an interesting plot make the sequel an oddly effective family drama.

I had assumed the strong characters would help carry this one. We meet possessed David (Julian Hillard) at the start, but when the exorcism goes wrong the demon takes control of family friend Arne (Ruairi O’Connor), but no one notices as Ed has a heart attack. Even with the heart-attack-as-cover-for-demon-transfer it seems a bit odd that no one notices something is amiss.

Arne is dating David’s older sister, who stays present in the story, though her parents decide to completely disengage (seriously, where the hell were the parents?). Arne, possessed, murders his painfully obnoxious landlord and goes for the possessed by demon defense (you can guess how this goes) and the Warrens promise to help him prove his innocence.

Side note: the landlord Bruno (Ronnie Gene Blevins) is like every annoying character in a horror movie hatched an offspring and dropped it into this movie. I feel bad for Blevins as he is just the sacrificial lamb who shouts all his lines before his untimely demise.

So, after all of this—including being introduced to a family that basically disappears, we finally get the plot to start in earnest. The Warrens find a cool, er, scary totem in the Glatzel house and then discover there are more. Now they must track clues and go over New England in order to save Arne.

Arne becomes an afterthought once it is discovered that a satanic cult is behind the killings (I actually wish they would have leaned into the Satanic Panic more for this one, but alas we just get one occultist as a villain). Why is the cult doing this? Cause evil. That’s why. I get that they wanted to give us a simplified good vs. evil story, but in doing so they end up making the evil really stupid.

Some minor (but predictable) spoilers ahead.

Obviously, the Warrens are also targeted by the Satanists. Whether they were the initial target (which would make more sense) or it is just happen-stance (which would make sense with the bonehead script) I am not sure. For the ritual we’re going to target some kid, some other victim you’ll see in the story, and Ed freaking Warren? The Warrens are borderline superheroes in this universe and to target them sure as hell wouldn’t be random.

Despite the plethora of other issues in the film this one just broke my brain. I’m a small-time crook so I’ll just go up and slap batman in the back of the head?

Aside from the asinine plot, we also have a complete dearth of anything scary. Even the jump scares feel lazy. The whole extended universe needs the Conjuring films to be the flagship, and this one feels like one of the spin offs, at best.

Unfortunately, the fact that folks are starving for horror means this film will do better at the box office than it deserves. I hope they can course correct before the inevitable fourth entry, but I don’t think there is any indication this new franchise has anything left in the tank.

Ugh. Skip it.

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