The third instalment in The Conjuring franchise features Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren to fight evil spirits
The genius of James Wan is unmatchable. The Conjuring franchise, with narratives carefully curated by the master of horror films each time, has transformed the genre of modern horror movies as horror buffs know it. The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It is a breath of fresh air in 2021 by being one of the first big horror movies of the year. Just like the previous Conjuring movies, the third instalment in the franchise is also based on a true story. However, this time the plot it based on an actual murder case with court proceedings that gripped the entire nation of the United States.
The plot of the film follows demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) reprising their roles from the previous films. The case they attempt to rid of evil spirits this time is that of a man who has been accused of murder. The alleged murderer claims to have been possessed and it is Ed and Lorraine’s responsibility to get to the bottom of this. The plot has been inspired by the real-life Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson - the first known court case in the US where the defendant (who was accused of murder) had claimed that he was possessed by a demon while committing the horrific act. He pleaded innocence of the crime, shocking the entire nation.
The true story behind the incident follows Arne Johnson who murdered his landlord Alan Bono in the midst of a heated conversation in Connecticut, US. Not only did Lorraine Warren, but also Johnson’s defence attorney claimed that he was possessed during an exorcism ritual of an 11-year-old boy, which led to him violently lashing out. However, the court dismissed his plea and sentenced him to 10 to 20 years imprisonment under first-degree manslaughter. Connecticut’s chief of parole called Johnson an “exemplary inmate” according to an Associated Press report from 1985 and he only served his sentence for five years.
Due to the peculiar nature of the case, the trials received a lot of attention over the years and have been adapted into various works of literature and film. Following The Conjuring 3 is Shock Docs: The Devil Made Me Do It - a documentary that is releasing later this month on Discovery+ which also aims to dissect the events that happened.
When director Michael Chaves was asked by Slashfilm if he believes Johnson’s narrative, he said: “When I got that script and I started reading it for the first time, as elated and out-of-my-mind-excited [as I was] to do this movie, I was also conflicted by the fact that there’s a real victim in this. There’s a man who lost his life and we’re not even telling [the story] from that point of view. We’re telling it from the point of view of the man who claimed to be possessed, the man who took his life – the murderer. And from the very beginning, I was like, ‘I hope I get this right. And I hope I tell that story fairly.’ Because I don’t think you can downplay that at all.”
Chaves also added how the narrative was built to tell the story of the Warrens. “Ultimately, this is a Conjuring film, and this is the story of the Warrens, and their experience, and their journey. And they believed this happened, and they believed in Arne Johnson. So they put their careers on the line, and they went to trial and they testified for him. There are always stories about faith. And usually [they are] stories about our faith in God, or the characters’ faith in God. And [this story] is much more about the faith we put in other people. Just like his girlfriend at the time, Debbie Glatzel, who is the sister to David Glatzel, the kid who got exorcised. She was there at the murder and she testified on his behalf. And she married him in jail, and she stayed with him her entire life. She believed him and she stuck by him. And when I was looking at this, I struggled to decide what I believe actually happened, but what I ultimately decided is my belief needs to take a back seat to their story. And ultimately it’s the story of their faith and the faith they put on each other,” he said.
The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It has already beaten Emily Blunt and John Krasinki’s acclaimed horror film The Quiet Place by earning over $10 million at the box office on the opening weekend.