With The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the iconic horror franchise returns with its third installment. However, this time around, the series moves into 1981 and dives into the infamous case of Arne Johnson who kills another man while claiming to be possessed. As Johnson (Ruariri O’Connor) faces the death penalty, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are called in to prove his innocence in a court of law. Because the court system is based on objective truth and evidence, this case was unprecedented as the Warrens have to do the impossible by essentially proving the existence of demons. However, the Warrens are also tasked with another challenge and this time it’s not another demon. As the Johnson trial rages on, they must also face off against another human with abilities like Lorraine who uses her gifts for sinister acts of evil and witchery.
Rather than focus another haunted house, Devil Made Me Do It differs from the first two installments of The Conjuring franchise in that they complete their exorcism storyline early on. Instead, in this film, the Warrens take on the role of paranormal detectives and the change in direction is refreshing, especially considering the other storylines of the overall Conjuring cinematic universe. It was really interesting to see the hoops the Warrens had to go through in order to gain the evidence the needed to convince the courts that demons and their abilities exist. By trying to gather evidence for something that can’t really be proven, the film shows the criticism and skepticism that they endured at the time.
Though Devil Made Me Do It also seems to address the skepticism of viewers who may not believe in the paranormal aspects of the Warrens’ legacy. Just like previous Conjuring films, this entry is also based off true events, centering around the first court hearing that sought to convince a jury that possession is, at the very least, possible. Even so, whether they were real demons that they encountered, people struggling with mental health disorders, or even just an elaborate scam for wealth and attention, today’s culture struggles to accept the paranormal world as fact. In this way, the film walks a fine line when it comes to the reality on Arne’s possession. By showing the events only his point of view throughout most of the film, the viewer is allowed to question if he is really possessed by a demon or merely struggling with a mental disorder such as schizophrenia. At the end of the day, like all cases who claim demonic possession as their defense, the film leaves the viewer with questions regarding what truly happened.
What I enjoyed most about this film was how many different directions they went compared to previous films. As first Conjuring film that centered around The Warrens themselves as opposed to a family or demonic object, the viewer really gets to see the couple flourish on screen with the great chemistry that they have together. Due to the wide range of the investigation, this more adventurous style of storytelling really allows them to create much better scares and more creative cinematography due to the variety of environments that the film uses. In doing so, Devil Made Me Do It becomes a vast improvement over previous films as there’s only so much you can do in a haunted house.
Overall, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is a much-needed change in direction for the franchise. In this entry, the Warrens’ adventure is an exciting story to behold and, for skeptics of the paranormal, this film does its best to address questions of the their legacy. Centering around one of their most iconic cases, this film really seeks to prove whether or not the Devil really could make him do It.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is available in theatres and IMAX on June 4th, 2021.