The next installment of the Conjuring Universe is here! The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It brings Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga back as Ed and Lorraine Warren. Directed by Michael Chaves, who also directed The Curse of La Llorona, The Devil Made Me Do It, tells the real-life story of Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) and the sensational murder trial where he claimed demonic possession as a defense.
We spoke with Chaves about the film and had the opportunity to screen the first thrilling 11 minutes of the film that set the stage for the full movie. These first scenes feature the exorcism of David Glatzel played by the talented young Julian Hilliard (notably Billy Maximoff of WandaVision and Young Luke Crain of The Haunting of Hill House), who Chaves praises as “the young master of genre films”. It’s a haunting scene played out in typical Conjuring fashion, featuring Ed and Lorraine Warren at the Glatzel house performing an exorcism. What starts off as standard fair (or as standard as it gets for the Warrens) turns into a horrific event that impacts the rest of the story. “I think the thing that we’re most excited about with this,” Chaves said. “This is a Conjuring movie through and through, but it’s also a very different Conjuring. It’s a step into a different direction. It takes the Warrens on a very unique case, a very dark case.”
“The big idea is, we’ve seen the Warrens exorcize demons a couple of times. We were like, ‘What happens if you actually open a movie like that?’ Everyone’s expecting that’s how we’re gonna end the movie, what if we just start with that? And then the big idea is because this is an intentionally different Conjuring movie. What happens when that just goes horribly wrong? What happens when they don’t succeed, when they actually fail? I thought that was one of the most interesting things when I first read the script.”
Chaves explained that this new angle on the classic Conjuring format came from James Wan, who created the Conjuring universe and also worked with Chaves on La Llorona. Chaves explained that when he asked Wan who the new iconic monster would be for the series, that Wan explained the series would approach the story from a new point of view. “From the very beginning, [James] was like, ‘Let’s do something different.’ And I think that this is a movie that is intentionally a different Warren adventure, [it’s] a different experience. We definitely have an adversary that we’ve never faced before, that you’ve never seen before. And I think that in itself is going to be unique and surprising.”
Being set in the 80s, The Devil Made Me Do It was able to bring in more modern elements and stray from the formula. “I think with [The Devil Made Me Do It], everybody starting with James [Wan] and going down to the studio and everyone involved wanted to just kick the doors off the haunted house [movie]. We wanted to take the Warrens out into the world. There are so many things that are just fascinating about the Warrens’ lives. This takes place in ’81. This is the most futuristic Conjuring universe movie so far. In the 80s, the Warrens were both famous and infamous, to the point in their careers, where they would work with some police departments and on some missing person cases.” Chaves cited the Department of Justice’s handbook for working with psychics, published back in the 80s. “It’s fascinating because it speaks to this time that doesn’t quite exist anymore.”
As implied by the trailer, The Devil Made Me Do It, puts the Warrens under the scrutiny of the justice system. “In a lot of ways, this really is the darkest Conjuring movie yet,” Chaves said. “There’s a real victim. There’s a real man who was killed, and we are telling the story of the murderer. We’re telling the story of the other guy.” But, what is real? What is fake? Was Arne Johnson really possessed by the devil when he murdered someone? The courts made their decision, but perhaps the audience is left with their choice on whether or not they believe Arne. Chaves chose to end the film with the chilling real audio from the exorcism conducted by Ed and Lorraine Warren, which could easily make anyone question where they stand on exorcisms and their validity.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It comes out in theaters and HBO Max on June 4, 2021.