'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It': Why James Wan Moved the Film Out of a Haunted House

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) is the third installment of the horror movie franchise featuring the paranormal investigations of married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The first two Conjuring movies, directed by Australian film director James Wan, brilliantly portrayed the gut-wrenching terror of real-life haunted houses.

While the newest movie stays consistent with the feel of the Conjuring universe, The Devil Made Me Do It wisely deviates from the previous movies’ haunted house formulas by delving into a real-life criminal case of demonic possession from 1981.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Conjuring 1, 2, & 3.]

The first Conjuring films conjure scares from haunted houses

The original paranormal investigation in The Conjuring (2013) takes place in 1971 when the ghost-busting Warrens visit a haunted Rhode Island farmhouse. There they find the disturbed Perry family who is under constant attack from a long-dead witch named Bathsheba.

Ed and Lorraine fight doggedly to exorcise the demon from within one of the daughters and dispel the curse from the home. The Conjuring 2 (2016) finds the couple summoned to another family in ghostly distress, this time in the London borough of Enfield in 1977.

Thanks to a stray Ouija board, the family’s children have unknowingly unleashed the angry spirit of the home’s former tenant who quickly takes possession of the youngest child, Janet. An epic battle with the poltergeist ensues until the clairvoyant Lorraine can once again condemn the demon back to Hell. 

The new Conjuring film takes the house out of the haunt

The Devil Made Me Do It takes the Conjuring franchise in a bold new direction, facing off against a different kind of monster that goes bump-in-the-night. The movie begins with the exorcism of 8-year-old David Glatzel in 1981. During the exorcism, the boyfriend of the child’s sister Arne Johnson (played by Ruairi O’Connor) invites the demon to enter his body instead of David’s.

While possessed, Arne murders his landlord in broad daylight while under the influence of “the beast.” His court case is internationally renowned as the first time in United States law that a defendant pleaded “not guilty” of manslaughter by reason of demonic possession. 

After an investigation that has them questioning the very nature of the devil himself, the Warrens finally discover that a Satanist had targeted the Glatzels and two other victims through an occultist curse. The life-or-death showdown has Ed and Lorraine racing to destroy the occultist’s altar before it’s too late, proving in the end that love is stronger than death.

Wan says this movie is “on a whole different level”

In a Warner Bros behind the scenes interview, James Wan says:

“I really wanted The Conjuring 3 to get away from the house set up of the first 2 Conjuring films. It should be more on a whole different level, something that we’ve never explored before in the Conjuring world.”

The storytelling in The Devil Made Me Do It is every bit as scary as its previous movies, perhaps more so because the demon is no longer confined to a house. The audience starts to see a much more investigative approach as Ed and Lorraine race to track down hard evidence of the possession, partnering with detectives and police departments in other towns nearby.

As they discover a series of satanic artifacts and fight peril every step of the way, we start to realize that these demonic possessions are calculated at the hands of an unknown monster. We’re left biting our nails realizing anyone could be the target.

With a fresh story comes a fresh director

Although he directed the first two installments, Wan stepped aside so filmmaker Michael Chaves could take over at the helm of The Conjuring 3, much to the apprehension of fans. Wan, however, was confident in Chaves’ vision, having worked with him on another Conjuring  universe film La Llorona (2019), saying when it comes to horror films Chaves “gets it.” 

Chaves effectively brings new scares to the table while keeping the audience invested in the Conjuring universe and its characters. When a victim starts to spiral out of reality and into a possession, Chaves absolutely captures a terrifying sense of doubting one’s own senses as the demon takes over. His technical savvy can be seen on camera in the jump-scares and the point-of-view decent into madness and confusion. 

The horror is real because the love is real

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are ultimately the key that brings the whole Conjuring saga to life as the main characters Lorraine and Ed Warren. Their portrayal of the real-life married couple makes us actually care what happens next, and their obvious love for each other and for helping other people make for a suspiciously romantic movie.  

“They are the personification of love,” said Farmiga in a Collider press conference with co-star Wilson and director Chaves. “For me, it’s more of a love story than it is a horror story. That’s what makes it so unique and successful and that’s why I enjoy coming back.” Maybe that’s why she’s claimed returning to set feels like being among family.

Wilson added:

“If you’re going to have these terrifying scares, then we want to have the most full-of-love moments that you can, because it does become very operatic.”

The triumph of The Devil Made Me Do It is that it terrifies people and makes them believe in love all at the same time.

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