It’s no secret that The Conjuring is one of my favourite scary movies, I think I’ve probably mentioned it when reviewing the many inferior entries that have arrived in The Conjuring universe since (see The Nun or some of the Annabelle movies). The Devil Made Me Do It is now the eighth movie set in that universe and while not quite as good as that very first Conjuring movie, it’s still far from being the worst, all thanks to the wonderful Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga and their portrayal of real-life paranormal investigators and demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The Devil Made Me Do It is based on the real-life case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who in 1981 was convicted of stabbing his landlord, Alan Bono, to death. Only this wasn’t any old murder case, with Johnson claiming that he had been possessed by a demon at the time of the murder – in other words, the devil made him do it. Just to make things even more interesting, it was claimed that Johnson had inherited this demon from eight-year-old David Glatzel, the brother of his fiancée Debbie. During an earlier exorcism of David, Johnson would apparently taunt the demons living within the boy and even asked for them to leave David in order to possess him instead. According to a later interview with Ed Warren, “It’s just one of those things you never do” (you think?) and is probably the worst (and, I guess, most stupid) move you could make when dealing with demonic possession. When he went on trial, Johnson and his lawyers actually tried to use demonic possession as part of Johnson’s defence, which was the first time that ever happened in a U.S. court of law.
The movie version of these events opens strong, with an intensely terrifying recreation of the exorcism of young David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). We get the obligatory shot of the priest arriving outside, pausing to look up at the bedroom window before moving inside where we launch into a chaotic whirlwind of violent contortions, feral noises and the entire contents of the Glatzel dining room flying across the room in a blur of both practical and digital effects. It’s an impressive start, but the Warrens don’t come out of it completely unscathed, with Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) ending up in hospital as a result of the demon attempting to stop his heart.
With the exorcism deemed a success, the Glatzel family start trying to rebuild their lives, and their home. But after demanding that the demon takes him instead, something clearly isn’t right with Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who is looking increasingly unwell and is beginning to have some terrifying visions. A while later, Arne is found by police, wandering along the road, covered in blood and unsure of what he’s just done. Enter the Warrens once again, to try and get to the root of the possessions and hopefully lessen the sentence when Arne gets to court. It’s a crime drama but with a supernatural twist.
And it works too. As the Warrens begin working with police as they investigate a similar recent case of demonic possession which also resulted in murder, a fairly solid and entertaining story is formed. All of which helps when building up to some well-executed scares, and thankfully there are plenty of those to enjoy along the way. Impressive use of light and dark, along with some great sound editing often means that you know something is coming, but are surprised by the way that it is actually delivered. There are also some wonderfully crafted set pieces to enjoy as well, including a terrifying morgue scene. Rounding off the movie with the actual recording of the David Glatzel exorcism, accompanied by photos of the central characters only adds to the overall creepiness.
Central to everything are Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, and it’s their performances, as is the case with all of the other main Conjuring movies, that make this movie so enjoyable. With Ed recovering from his demon ordeal for much of the movie, Lorraine and her supernatural detective work are a lot more central this time round and we even get to delve a little more into the Warrens relationship. After a lengthy spell of lacklustre Conjuring movies, the series is back on track!
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