The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the 8th film in the $1.9 billion grossing supernatural horror franchise and the shared Conjuring Universe. It is also the 3rd film starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. However, director Michael Chaves, who first joined the franchise with The Curse of La Llorona, believes it is unlike anything we’ve seen in the series of films so far.
Stepping away from the haunted house gimmick of the first Conjuring films, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which is set in 1981, sees the Warrens take on a mysterious and controversial true-life murder case of Arne Johnson who claimed he was demon-possessed after attending an exorcism.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It will also be the first of the three films not directed by James Wan.
“The Conjuring mothership is something I really care about. This is a world that I was involved in and have shepherded from the beginning. It was tough for me to walk away from directorial duties at first, but at the same time, I felt like I’ve said all I needed to say with the first two films, and it was time for me to try something different,” Wan commented in a recent interview.
Wan, who has been key to the success of the franchise (producing all 8 films, including The Conjuring, Annabelle, The Conjuring 2, Annabelle: Creation, The Nun, The Curse of La Llorona and Annabelle Comes Home), also has the highest praise for Chaves (who was mentored by Wan), believing he was the perfect man for the job. “When I made the decision to step back from The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, I had just finished working with Michael Chaves on The Curse of La Llorona, which I produced, and he directed. I really like the guy and I think he’s very smart. I saw him grow as a filmmaker over the course of that film and felt his creativity and his sensibility was in the right place for what The Conjuring needed. I felt better knowing that I could hand it off to someone who has so much respect for The Conjuring films.”
Even though he stepped away from directing the film, Wan worked closely with the writing team and all those involved to ensure that the story and the script remained true to his original vision for the franchise. “The biggest thing for me as a producer was making sure that Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson were taken care of. They’re the heart and soul of The Conjuring films, and because we collectively started this together, I didn’t want them to feel like I was abandoning them. I wanted to ensure that the script and the story move in the direction that allows their characters, Ed and Lorraine, to grow and mature. That was my number one priority.”
Unlike previous instalments, the film’s creators see The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It as a detective film of sorts. Ed and Lorraine Warren have a long history of working with the police to solve murders and find missing persons. The new film explores that side of their story.
“I remember saying to Patrick and Vera on the set of The Conjuring 2 that I would love to explore the investigative, crime-solving world of Ed and Lorraine. They were excited by that, too. So, we felt, ‘why don’t we take a look at a case where Ed and Lorraine get out of the house and travel around and help the police?’ The Devil Made Me Do It is one of their most famous cases. It was the first time demonic possession was used in a U.S. court of law as a defence. It felt like the perfect story for us to delve into and expand the world of The Conjuring at the same time,” Wan commented on the new direction of the films.
The filmmakers, however, promise that the key ingredients to what made the horror films so scary remain intact. In fact, after a screening of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to film critics earlier this month, many have taken to social media and described it as the darkest chapter franchise.
Happy to report that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is solid. It has issues dovetailing the reality of the case and its fictional horror spin, but it's great to see the Warrens on an investigation, and there are more than a few exciting and well-orchestrated scares. pic.twitter.com/AYIYKrIGz7
— Eric Eisenberg (@eeisenberg) May 20, 2021
THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT is freakishly demonic & bone-chilling in all the right spots, featuring a sensational opening sequence & a waterbed scene that rivals any creepy moment from the franchise so far. Wild that it's based on a real story, too. #TheConjuring pic.twitter.com/8HxIRkNHtI
— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) May 20, 2021
#TheConjuring #TheDevilMadeMeDoIt is a fantastic next chapter in the franchise! It's got so much heart and a love story at its core. I got so invested that I forgot to eat dinner while watching the screener. No spoilers, but I slept with the light on. pic.twitter.com/jPZR1GAVfC
— Jenna Busch (@JennaBusch) May 20, 2021
From the sounds of it, we’re in for a very good time.
As you can imagine, there must have been tons of pressure on Michael Chaves to take over from Wan. Thankfully, it sounds like he has pulled through.
According to Patrick Wilson, it’s the director’s personality and his similarities to Wan that makes him the perfect man for the job. “The reason I think Chaves was such a great addition is because he loves these movies, and he has a tremendous amount of respect for James Wan. His skillset and his personality really make him the right fit from an actor’s perspective. He’s not afraid to be wrong. It’s more about wanting to have the most dynamic and scary idea. He wants to push the boundaries and try new things, and if something doesn’t work, he has five more, better ideas. That’s something he has in common with James, and I think that’s exciting.”
With the first two films set in the 70s, it was important to Wilson that the next film be set in the 80s. Beyond that, he also wanted to see the The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It step away from the family-in-peril-at-home story. “We wanted to push the genre forward, to push Ed and Lorraine out into the world. This case is different, because it’s more of a whodunit or a why’d they do it. Also, this is a famous, well-documented case where demonic possession was used as a legal defence. That’s a pretty historic moment.”
Like with the previous films, filming began with a set blessing and a real-life exorcist present, Wilson explains. “I have great respect for the ritual, and I know it’s important to a lot of the cast and crew. I think it’s great if it helps people feel comfortable and get into the right headspace. For me, it’s a moment of peace where you can be reflective and think, “Let’s all have positive energy during this shoot.”
Is it possible for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to elevate the films to even scarier territory? Or did the franchise peak with the first two Conjuring films?
We’ll have to wait and see.