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Review: Conjuring: The Book of the Dead (2020)

Conjuring: The Book of the Dead is not the next film in the popular franchise. It’s the most recent release from British writer/director Richard Driscoll (Kannibal, When the Devil Rides Out). Allegedly it’s an adaptation of M.R. James’ short story “The Casting of the Runes”, previously adapted by Jacques Tourneur into the 1957 classic Night of the Demon. Given Driscoll’s reputation, I wasn’t expecting another classic.

George Carney (Steven Craine aka Richard Driscoll) is a writer of graphic novels which his publisher Martha (Lysette Anthony, Krull, We Still Kill the Old Way), says aren’t selling like they used to. She’s recently bought a collection of manuscripts that includes H.P. Lovecraft’s rough draft of the Necronomicon. Which for some reason makes her send him to New Orleans to research the diary, now ascribed to Alistair Crowley.

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Once there he meets with Zilia (Bai Ling, Exorcism at 60,000 Feet, The Gene Generation). He also gets a lecture on Crowley from Mr. White (Tom Sizemore, Monster Hunters, 7 Deadly Sins). Interestingly, we hear him but never see him. His character is wearing a full-body costume the whole time. Considering how this film was pieced together, I’m assuming it’s his dialogue but not him in the costume. Michael Madsen (Shark Season, Red Handed) shows up for a couple of minutes, and it really is him.

Yes, I said pieced together. Conjuring: The Book of the Dead has been Frankensteined together from footage going back to 2008’s Evil Calls: The Raven along with footage from an unreleased sequel Back2Hell aka The Devil’s Disciple. And from When the Devil Rides Out, which was announced in 2012 but released in 2017. A few new scenes were shot in 2019 and there you have it, I think. If I’m correct, thank Google and MJ Simpson.

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The result is a nearly incoherent mess, although that should have been apparent from the start. An M.R. James adaptation involving the Necronomicon? The script manages to use Lovecraft and Crowley interchangeably. To add insult to injury, the auctioneer, played by former Dr. Who Sylvester McCoy, manages to mispronounce Necronomicon.

Bai Ling asking our hero “Do you want to put it in my mouth or my cunt?” is anything but sexy, although their attempt at a rough sex scene is so bad it’s laughable. As is their other sex scene where she smokes even while riding him.

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Richard Driscoll served three years in prison for tax fraud. He deserves at least another ten for trying to pass Conjuring: The Book of the Dead off as a movie. It’s more like a collection of celluloid bits and pieces, and easily one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.

If you have some sins that need atoning for, Conjuring: The Book of the Dead is available to stream via Monarch Films.

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