The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and the Perils of Taking on a Real Life Murder

It’s the eighth part in the Conjuring universe, the third starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, yet director Michael Chavez says The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is going to be “very different” from the rest of the franchise.

After revealing the first 11 minutes of the film to journalists, Chavez, who also made Conjuring universe movie The Curse of La LLorona, explains that the intention for the third installment of the main franchise was always to “blow the doors off the haunted house experience and take the Warrens out into the world,” but this particular story comes with a unique set of perils not yet tackled within the Conjuring universe.

Set in 1981, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, like the other main Conjuring movies, stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The movie explores the case of Arne Johnson, who murdered his landlord and claimed “The Devil Made Me Do It” saying that he’d been possessed after attending the exorcism of 11-year-old David Glatzel. Johnson was dating Glatzel’s sister Debbie and according to the Warrens, who had been called in to help after David’s behaviour became increasingly erratic, encouraged the demon to vacate David’s body and enter his own. So far, so ‘Conjuring’. But when Johnson went on to stab his landlord, Alan Bono, to death, this moves away from the usual possession story territory.

“We wanted it to be a departure from the classic Conjuring film. We wanted to make something that felt very different,” Chavez says.

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“Each of the Conjuring movies is marketed as ‘this is the darkest Conjuring movie’ and I think on this one it really is. With a lot of the other stories there isn’t a real victim that you can point to but this is a real murder. A man’s life was lost. We’re telling it from the point of view of the murderer.”

It’s thorny ground that’s as yet untread for the franchise, and it caused Chavez mixed emotions.

“When I first got the script I was losing my mind with excitement,” he says. “But I was also pulled in the other direction – how do I get this right? I grew up Catholic, I have my own set of beliefs. Do I believe that Arne Johnson was possessed?”

This is the million dollar question. Glimpses of the footage shown certainly indicates that the tack the film will take is that Johnson definitely was possessed, however in the real case that defence was not admissible. The Warrens certainly backed Johnson’s claim, however, as did Debbie Glatzel who was a witness to the murder. When asked about his own take on what happened, Chavez explains that it’s a question of faith.

“I think without a doubt the Warren’s believed he was possessed,” he says. “They put their careers on the line for it. This is the story of Arne Johsnon and also Debbie Glatzel who was Arne’s girlfriend who became his wife. She was there during the murder, she testified for him, she believed, she stood by that. 

“These stories are always about faith. Where usually the expectation is that it’s faith in God, I think in this, it is also like the faith that we put in other people, the faith that we put in the people who we share our lives with and choose to love. That’s the Warrens story but it’s also the story of Arne and Debbie and my belief really has to take a back seat to tell their story right.”

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The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opens in cinemas on May 28 (UK), June 4 (US).

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