Based on a true story in 1981, “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” portrays a young man, Arne Johnson, who pleaded not guilty to murder by reason of demonic possession. Truth, once again, proves to be crazier than fiction in this chilling, sometimes comedic, and always gripping horror story.
The “Conjuring” series depicts the numerous accounts of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), specialists in exorcisms, as they collect the evil paraphernalia from their encounters, all housed in a locked room in their basement. “Annabelle” is one such special item that “The Devil Made Me Do It” harkens back to, eliciting knowing chuckles as well as chilling memories.
Ed and Lorraine find themselves in a particularly sticky situation in this current rendition as a young boy, David (Julian Hilliard) is possessed by an unusual demon—yes, there are run of the mill types and this isn’t one of them. Sweet and protective Arne (Ruairi O’Connor), David’s sister’s boyfriend, saves the boy by inviting this evil spirit to take him instead of David. Of course, this wasn’t the best idea as Arne finds himself behind bars for subsequently killing a local man.
Ed and Lorraine must find out this demon’s reasons for the possessions in order to help Arne who now sits behind bars. Their detective and intuitive skills lead them to prior murders, a retired priest, and a cult of Satanists who, again, aren’t your typical devil worshippers. Pulled deeper and deeper into this world, Ed and Lorraine fight not just for Arne but for themselves and one another.
First, let me say that there’s nothing like watching either a comedy or a horror film in a movie theater with others…it makes everything more intense. Seeing “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” with an audience on a huge screen created the creepy ambiance with jump-scares that make you laugh at yourself. The film itself uses all the typical horror film tropes such as low lighting, flickering lights, walking into cobweb-lined cellars and more, but all of these gimmicks are a part of the genre. In using these techniques, “The Devil Made Me Do It” doesn’t take itself too seriously, either, as it makes fun of situations. A standout moment is during an exorcism in prison, the priest attributes the flickering lights to an old building, run by the state. These types of comedic moments, sprinkled sparingly throughout the film gives the viewer a break from the intensity, providing the needed uphill climb on this roller coaster of a film.
The story takes a few twists and turns, explaining the occult’s rationale and how particular demons work. While we know how this is going to turn out, the story sucks you in, and you are invested in the mystery, working with them to solve it. The writers spoon feed you the clues and give you the keys to unlock the puzzle, just a little bit at a time and that hooks you.
Farmiga and Wilson take their roles seriously as they hone in on the actual Warrens—their looks, styles, and personality attributes. While this appears to be over-the-top at times, it’s also a part of the fun. We’ve come to expect these actors to be a certain way in each of these horror films, welcoming their interpretation of their characters. We get to know them better and they, in turn, do the same. O’Connor is a standout of the film as the sweet young man who sacrifices his freedom, spiritually and physically, to help young David. In an instant, O’Connor can switch gears to become a murderous man who is hell-bent on wreaking havoc, and then back again to his innocent persona.
Of course, make up, props, and special effects go a long way with horror films and this is no exception to that rule. The contortion special effects of the possessed characters is jaw-droppingly mesmerizing! And creating gruesome characters, even dead ones, is showcased in “The Devil Made Me Do It,” all compounded by a musical score that are sure to send shivers up and down your spine. But the most disturbingly scary part of the entire movie is the end credits. If you don’t want to have nightmares, leave before those roll!