Home > Reviews > THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT – Joseph Bishara


Original Review by Christopher Garner

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the third film in the main Conjuring series and the eighth in the greater Conjuring universe. This time around, Ed and Lorraine Warren (played again by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) witness an exorcism in which a demon jumps from one host to another. A couple weeks later that newly possessed man kills his landlord, and his possession becomes part of his legal defense during the murder trial. The film is directed by Michael Chaves, who previously directed The Curse of La Llorona, another film in the Conjuring franchise. James Wan, who created the franchise and directed the first two Conjuring films, took a producer and role this time around and helped write the story. Though this installment hasn’t been as favorably reviewed by critics as the first two, it has been a commercial success, earning more than four times its budget at the box office in its first month in theaters, despite having a simultaneous release on HBO Max.

Returning to the franchise for the sixth time is horror film composer Joseph Bishara, who has also composed scores for the Insidious franchise, and many other horror films over the last twenty years including The Unholy from earlier this year and James Wan’s upcoming film Malignant. For this newest Conjuring film, Bishara collaborated with Kristin Hayter, whose stage name is Lingua Ignota, and whose music has been called “black metal,” “death industrial,” and simply “harsh noise,” by different writers. Any purveyor of harsh noise is a good match for Joseph Bishara.

I don’t mean that as an insult at all—it’s simply a fact. Those familiar with Bishara’s horror scores know that he uses unsettling, disturbing, and often terrifying sounds to create a palpable sense of dread. There isn’t a lot of melody in his music, but there is certainly a lot of harsh noise. The Devil Made Me Do It is no exception, though there are actually some softer moments toward the beginning of the film featuring piano that give some reprieve from the onslaught of darkness.

The score begins with the short “Devil Opening,” which introduces the deep woodwinds that represent the evil spirits throughout the film. It’s hard to pinpoint all the instruments that create this growling sound, but photos of the recording session show bass flutes and bass clarinets. There are probably also contrabassoons and maybe some low brass like tuba or bass trombone. The incredibly low notes these instruments can produce are actually really perfect as a throbbing underbelly for a horror score.

“Ease into night,” which introduces the softer piano sound I mentioned. You get more of that softer sound in “Stabilized” and “How We Met.” The latter is actually quite nice, particularly when compared with most of the rest of the score.

“Wilds of the Devil,” the longest cue on the album at five minutes, brings back those bass instruments and creates, along with stabbing strings and drum kit percussion, a dark wall of sound. That wall dissipates after about a minute and strings begin repeating an anxious three-note motif. Droning bass notes and drums and a little bit of electronics carry you through most of the rest of the track. At the end a boy’s choir takes over and performs what is probably the prettiest music of the score, though it is brief.

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do it,” is just 45 seconds long, but introduces soft, creepy whispering, which becomes another repeated element of the score. I can’t make out what, if anything, the whispers are saying, but they certainly create a chilling atmosphere. The whispers are back at the beginning of “Cut Close,” along with some unsettling strings and undulating electronics, and again in “Witch Totem,” along with some weird vocal work that starts at about 2:18 that is accompanied by more growling bass woodwinds.

Much of the scariest music on the album is atonal. “Possession Measured,” for example, includes a choral droning and some accompanying strings that can’t have been written in a specific key. I wonder how much of this kind of music was actually written down. Those choral note sound less like the singers had notes on a page and more like they were told to just sustain a sound near a particular note, but not exactly on that note. “Know What You Did” is a more brutal example of atonality, with lots of electronics and distorted sounds that get louder as it goes along. It is most unpleasant.

Much of the score is made up of soft creepy droning. I would give you a more specific track-by-track analysis if I had more to say, but cues like “Psychic Evidence,” “Something Happened Here,” “Holy Water,” and a half dozen others, are mostly creepy strings and deep woodwinds, and occasionally voices, whispers, or electronics that create a general sense of foreboding. I assume it’s effective in the context of the film (which I haven’t seen), but it’s pretty dull away from it.

In the midst of all this droning darkness there are a few cues that standout as being particularly terrifying. “Black Candles” begins with drums creating a sense of inevitable terror. The creepy whispering and deep woodwinds come back, and then electronics and wailing voices build and build into something truly horrifying. The last three tracks also stand out. “Altar Approached,” has some unearthly female vocal wailing, in a low register with lots of vibrato, that creates a tense atmosphere. The use of hollow wooden tempo blocks at the end of the track is unexpected and interesting. “Wronged Forces” starts with a wall of noise that builds in throbbing waves of intensity. “Soaring Curses,” is another example of atonality that makes me wonder what direction the musicians were given. It’s quite the cacophony, with low woodwinds, ominous choir, industrial sounds, and absolutely no melody to speak of.

This isn’t the kind of music I choose to listen to for fun. It made me feel unsettled and kind of gross (which, to his credit, is probably exactly what Bishara was going for). But while I didn’t enjoy listening to the score, I do admire Bishara’s skill and creativity, and that he used some instruments we don’t hear very often to make all of this dreadful sound. If you like music that scares you, and if you don’t require said music to have any kind of melodic hook, you could give this a shot. If that doesn’t describe you, however, I suggest skipping most of this score.

Buy the Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Devil Opening (0:55)
  • Ease Into Night (1:01)
  • Wilds of the Devil (5:01)
  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (0:46)
  • Stabilized (1:08)
  • How We Met (1:03)
  • Cut Close (1:55)
  • Possession Measured (2:35)
  • Witch Totem (2:53)
  • Reason You’re Here (3:16)
  • Psychic Evidence (2:11)
  • Something Happened Here (0:59)
  • Know What You Did (3:34)
  • Holy Water (2:33)
  • Beast Asserting (1:21)
  • Morgue Visit (2:05)
  • Black Candles (2:40)
  • In Your Vision (2:28)
  • A Visitor (1:09)
  • Unclean Spirit (1:37)
  • Occult Connection (2:30)
  • Altar Approached (2:40)
  • Wronged Forces (2:54)
  • Soaring Curses (3:23)

Running Time: 52 minutes 23 seconds

Watertower Music (2021)

Music composed by Joseph Bishara. Orchestrations by Rossano Galante, Dana Niu and Brad Warnaar. Special vocal performances by Anna Schubert, Elyse Willis and Andrea Zomorodian. Recorded and mixed by Chris Spilfogel. Edited by Julie Pearce, Oliver Hug, Barbara McDermott, Joe E. Rand and Lise Richardson. Album produced by Joseph Bishara and Divyam Agarwal.

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