Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.
Ed and Lorraine Warren have had many frightening encounters in their life together as paranormal investigators. From the demonically influenced doll Annabelle to poltergeists, they'd seen it all. But when 1981 rolled around, the Warrens along with the entire country were shook to the core when Arne Johnson pled not guilty to murder, citing "the devil made me do it". While the court case is documented, what was unknown was what Ed and Lorraine found. The film follows the Warrens investigation rather than delving too much into the court proceedings.
I admit, I wasn't sure what to expect from the film. The trailer showed one thing but it was described like it'd be the next Exorcism of Emily Rose. This is the very reason why I typically stay away from trailers when it comes to franchises I'm already invested in. It's like watching the trailer for Avengers: Endgame. I'm going to see it regardless; nothing they show in the trailer is going to hype me up any more than I already am. I love reading about the Warrens' cases and this is now the 8th entry in the ConjurVerse. So yes, I'm going to see it regardless.
Now, I haven't read much about the Warrens actual investigation into the Arne Johnson case but the film has certainly gotten me interested. Did they really find a witch's totem? Did they really struggle against this powerful adversary all in the name of helping Arne? Whatever the truth may be, the film itself is a well-constructed, thought-provoking film that's reminiscent of a warning label. Don't meddle with the dark arts, because the devil always comes to collect his due.
The exorcism in the prologue is without a doubt one of the best exorcism scenes since The Exorcist. I think what sets these two scenes apart is that both films depicted a child in peril. Most exorcism films show possessed adults who are already insufferable people to begin with. They're hard to relate to or sympathize with, however, a possessed child is instantly heartbreaking because what's the first thing you want to do when a child is in trouble? Help. But how can you help when you're out of your league? The helplessness the family felt is real and relatable.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are such a brilliant pair. They got a whole new generation interested in the Warrens and now paranormal enthusiasts are researching cases the Warrens worked because of The Conjuring franchise. Patrick and Vera work so well together that I honestly wouldn't mind if they made more Conjuring films beyond this one. The real-life Warrens investigated 10,000-plus cases in their lifetimes so there's plenty of material to chose from.
The only negative I have to say is that I don't understand why Ed and Lorraine's ages were changed. It's not just for this film either, it's the whole franchise. This film is set in 1981 and Lorraine mentions she met Ed 30 years ago when they were 17. That would have been 1951. The issue with that is that the real Ed and Lorraine were married in 1945 and their daughter Judy was born in 1950. So even though Judy was depicted as being a child in the first Conjuring film, she would have actually been 20 at the time. So while the events in the film are true, the Warren family's ages were manipulated and I have no clue why. The only thing I can figure out is that the ages were changed to fit with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga's actual ages. They're both 47, which would fit the "30 years ago" story.
It's hard to compare the films because each one is so vastly different. Part 2 is probably still my favorite but The Devil Made Me Do It is a brilliant entry and certainly the darkest film yet. If you thought Annabelle, The Nun or The Conjuring parts 1 and 2 were frightening, just wait until you see this one. It's downright unnerving from start to finish but, the one thing that's more frightening to think about is that this stuff is real. People do make deals with the devil. There are sacrifices in the name of the devil and possessions and all-manner of evil in the world. But as Lorraine says, "All the evil in here reminds me of all the good out there." There's always hope if we stay steadfast in our faith.
In conclusion, The Devil Made Me Do It is a well-made, tense film that's sure to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Aside from the strange age change, the film holds up and never disappoints. I give the film a 3.5 out of 4.
"Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow." - Ed Warren
© 2021 Nathan Jasper