Our favourite husband and wife ghostbusting duo are back for the seventh outing of the Conjuring franchise that is more fast paced with a belter of an opening, but familiar jump scenes and a lame plot suggests that the creaks are beginning to badly show.

Kicking off with an obvious homage to a certain 1973 horror classic, this latest addition to the popular Conjuring franchise, really does wear its horror badge with pride, with nods and winks to the likes of Elm Street and a few more there is no doubt, some fans will lavish the praise on what director Michael Chaves brings to the big screen.

To its credit, the film starts with a fierce pace and never relents, the slow burning dread of the original, now nothing more than a distant memory. We start with an exorcism in which the Warrens are part of, only this time they don’t really save the day as the demon leaps from one body to another with 19-year-old Arne (Ruairi O’Connor), now the unfortunate victim and poor Ed (Patrick Wilson) collapsing from a heart attack and being rushed to the hospital.

By the time you can gather your own breath and with Blondie’s iconic song CALL ME, ringing in your ears, Arne has murdered a poor guy and is found wandering with his clothes full of blood by a passing patrol car and Ed awakes to warn everyone that the case is far from over.

Its here that the film settles and unlike the first two, becomes a different beast as this is not in some backstreets of England or on some secluded farm, but on the court stand as the case of Arne ends up being big news and becomes the first American murder trial to claim possession as a defence.

Its up to the Warrens to prove this, with the help of a lawyer who is convinced of Arne’s innocence thanks to a clever visual gag that is a highlight, but while its great to see a franchise not repeat the same old blueprint of their last two successful films, it feels like the shift in tone has left a muddled film that is trying to hard to be something different.

And sadly it doesn’t work! The court case itself is not a patch on fan favourite Emily Rose and the deeper storylines which become more of the Conjuring tales we are used too, feels stale to the point of boring and tedious and the lack of decent jump scares, make this feel more of a drama than a down right horror.

It doesn’t help that the film is to busy being a love letter to horror that it forgets to add its own unique style. Remember the brilliant “clap” scene from the original? There is nothing remotely like that on offer as all we get is homages of past horror scenes that makes you scream out for some freshness or at least some half decent scares.

Its not all doom and gloom. The saving factor as always are the duo themselves, even more so Vera Farmiga who takes centre stage and like always is such a captivating watch, helped more so thanks to the wonderful chemistry between herself and Wilson that is the heartbeat of the entire franchise. Its a shame that not more thought had gone into O’Conner’s character, who is such a pivotal part of the storyline and yet he sits on the side lines for the majority of the running time.

While the first two films were grounded and both felt like a proper horror exercise, helped by the “true story” status, this entry for the very first time within the Conjuring franchise felt like a glossy Hollywood adaption, that became more sillier as the running time progressed. Its not a total disaster, but with the odd flashbacks, you do question are we watching a scary flick, or a remake of that 80’s classic starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, with a new title “When Ed Met Lorraine“?

The third Conjuring movie may well have a slick look to go with the pace, but you can not help but sense an emptiness from the story and for the very first time while in the company of these two compelling characters, you feel underwhelmed by the approach.

This case may have shocked America, but if you like us, you’ll be stunned at just how non scary the whole film is and for that reason alone, the jury can only come up with one verdict and that is guilty for a crime against horror…..

2 Hatchets out of 5