Review: Overly Convoluted 'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It' Should Stick Closer to the Source Material

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 23, 2021

'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It'
'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It'  (Source:New Line Cinema)

The murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson in Southern Connecticut back in 1981 was all over the papers in my hometown of Rockville, Connecticut. With the events taking place a mere 50 minutes away from us, the papers claimed that Arne murdered his landlord, but stated he didn't remember because he was taken over by a demon after trying to save his girlfriend's little brother, David, who was possessed by 41 of the little devils.

Making national headlines, a book ("The Devil in Connecticut") about the case was pulled from the shelves during the trial and released in 2006. I devoured it. While it had reductive elements, it was still terrifying. It was also the subject of an episode of the Discovery TV show, "A Haunting," right around the time the book was rereleased.

The book has been pulled once again by author Gerald Brittle as the brother of little David Glatzel claims the entire thing was a hoax pulled off by the Warrens. He is now writing his version of the events which, he claims, destroyed his family.

That said, the story — true or not — of David's possession is horrifying, which is why it is a bummer to report that "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" doesn't dive into that possession story except for a riveting opening sequence and one flashback. The rest of the film concerns Arne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor) and his time in jail as the court case begins.

Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are back, and this third installment in the "Conjuring" series has them trying to prove to the court (and Arne's lawyer) that the demonic explanation for the murder is true.

What follows is an overly convoluted story involving a satanic ritual and an unsolved disappearance - both of which now involve the Warrens.

So basically, nothing in the story is true except the basis for the tale and the outcome. Everything in between is fiction. But why?

Warner Bros. has a horrifying account right there for the world to witness. (Sure, it might not be true, but still... what is in the pages of Gerald Brittle's novel is unsettling, and had me sleeping with the lights on for four straight nights. I was in my 30s at the time.)

The movie has some effective scenes and moments, and if you didn't know much about the actual possession case, you might not care. It's moderately effective, but under the direction of Michael Chavez ("The Curse of La Llorona"), it is certainly the lesser of the "Conjuring" trilogy. The acting is good by all, and there are some creepy sequences, but there are no real scares here. (There are also three young actresses playing different roles that all look identical. I could barely tell the Warrens' daughter from Arne's fiancé from a girl who disappeared.)

I appreciate the fact that the filmmakers tried to do something different rather than tell another "family attacked by supernatural forces," but it's disappointing when this is one of the creepiest of these "true event" stories, and should have definitely been put on screen. During the opening exorcism sequence, you see the results of the possession, including violent scratches all over the walls - clearly created by something otherworldly. That's the story I wanted to know more about. Alas...

The book is out of print, but if you can get your hands on one, check it out.

Otherwise, enjoy this latest tale of the Warrens for what it is, but hope that their next installment sticks closer to the source material.

"The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" available for premium digital ownership early on July 23

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.