The Conjuring universe was established in 2013, and it has been the most consistent cinematic universe not named Marvel. The films largely center around investigators Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), the relics they collect, and the demons they face. The most notable demons are the doll Annabelle and the nun Valak. And with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, we now have a movie that might be the Warrens darkest case yet.
The case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) is one of the most intriguing murder cases in U.S. crime history. In 1981, Johnson murdered his landlord Alan Bono or Bruno Sauls (Ronnie Gene Blevins). He claimed that a demon possessed him when he committed the murder. The Warrens were already familiar with Johnson as they were helping the family of his girlfriend Debbie Glatzel (Sarah Catherine Hook) with her brother David (Julian Hilliard). David was possessed by the demon that would later possess Arne. Now that Johnson has the attention of the Warrens, they go above and beyond to get the prosecutor to convict him of a lesser charge than the death penalty.
It seems every time we get a Conjuring film, we see it in a different era. The 1980s was the rise of the Satanic Panic. Rock Bands used Satan and demons for shock value, and cults were becoming more prevalent than ever. They slightly incorporate this into the film, and I’m hoping we get more Warren cases from the 80s with this as the focus.
The Devil Made Me Do It is great story-wise, but it definitely is missing some elements of the earlier Conjuring films and spinoffs. David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick’s screenplay is good, but there’s just that sense of fear and anxiety missing from this film. Usually, the Conjuring films make you afraid of your home and other spaces in which you confide. While I understand this case is bigger than our homes, and more about people just being evil; the horror element is still lacking.
However, Michael Chaves, who also directed The Curse of La Llorona, did what he could as far as adding in details to create a more scary atmosphere. This shouldn’t take away anything from him as a horror director. And although the acting does not help it become the best of the franchise, it is largely terrific across the board. Hook and O’Connor’s chemistry was really good, and they convinced me they were in love. They were a really nice addition to this franchise and will be memorable in their roles.
The film just feels more like a crime-solving film with horror/supernatural elements than an actual horror film. That doesn’t diminish it being a good movie, just not what audiences and fans of the franchise would expect. If they do the Satanic Panic route, I feel like this will be the atmosphere going forward. The incorporation of the murder in a separate town from Brookfield with Jessica (Ingrid Bisu) and Katie (Andrea Andrade) as a means to get help from Sergeant Clay (Keith Arthur Bolden) kind of added to that crime-solving atmosphere.
Overall, The Devil Made Me Do It is more enjoyable than not. Yes, it’s missing a bit of the horror element. But it’s still a compelling story about a mysterious time in the United States. This shouldn’t be the end of the road for the Conjuring universe. After all, there’s a ton of more cases to tackle, and demons to deal with. I’m sure we will see all of this in the years to come. – Rascal F. Kennedy
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is now streaming on HBO Max and in theaters.