[Article] Director Michael Chaves Embraces History in THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings was lucky enough to attend a special event for the upcoming release of THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, where we were able to see the first 10 minutes of the film as well as chat with director Michael Chaves afterward.

In THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, which is the 9th film in The Conjuring Universe, centers around one of the most sensational cases from the Warrens’ files which reveals a chilling story of terror, murder, and unknown evil. What starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, it then takes Ed and Lorraine Warren beyond anything they’d ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.

Before chatting with Chaves, we watched the first 10 minutes of the film which was filled with terror, homages to horror classics, stunning visuals, and more horrific imagery just as the title block announcing THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT comes on screen. The action and horror begin at once barely giving the audience time to settle in. I don’t want to give away too much but what I can say is that the audience will see the exorcism of David Glatzel unfold and, as one would expect, it does not go as planned. As the situation in which the Warrens find themselves gets exponentially worse, the demonic possession takes hold of Glatzel who twists and turns his body in ways that are inhuman, causing me to want to crawl out of my chair in panic.

After seeing the footage, Chaves then shared an audio file used for the end credits that is the actual audio recording of David Glatzel’s exorcism. Hearing that audio sent shivers down my spine and, whether it’s real or not, there’s nothing comforting about hearing the pain and anguish that Glatzel experienced.

(L-R) Patrick Wilson, Director Michael Chaves and Vera Farmiga on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, a Warner Bros. Pictures release | Photo by Ben Rothstein

When talking about how this Conjuring film differentiates from the previous ones, Chaves explained, “Primarily it’s been the haunted house format, let’s just see the haunted house movie again and again, and there’s been so many great explorations of that. And with this [film], the idea was to kick the door off the haunted house and take [the Warrens] out into the world and actually give them a mystery to solve, give them an investigation.”

And what better way to do that than with one of the most notorious cases of demonic possession: “This is based on the real life story of Arne Johnson who murdered his landlord and went to trial claiming demonic possession. And [the movie] stars right there, as his story does, with the real-life Catholic exorcism of David Glatzel. That’s basically what kicks off his possession and it becomes something that we come back to and the moments within it that as the case unfolds,” explained The Curse of La Llorona Director.

Understanding the story and all the players involved was one of the most important aspects of the film so as to not over-sensationalize the true story at hand. When discussing this Chaves surprised us by saying, “We actually brought in, I wasn’t there for this, but early on we brought in Arne Johnson and Debbie Johnson, his wife. We interviewed them and they came to set. It was important that we got as many of the facts right as possible, and also spoke to his experience, that told the truth of the story, the emotional truth of the story, and also respectful to the real victim,” explained Chaves. “It wasn’t just about making a terrifying, awesome horror movie. It was also kind of like doing right for all parties involved. We actually tried to get the court records but, long story short, it was this big journey to discover that they destroyed all the court records of that. I think it was the Catholic Church, they’re trying to cover something up. You know what’s interesting? It was a Catholic approved exorcism and two Catholic priests were involved in it and called to testify and the court basically wouldn’t allow them. I, of course, assume like the worst conspiratorial reasons for that,” Chaves laughed.

With the ’80s being the backdrop of this film, Chaves discussed how that was a time when the police actually worked with psychics on missing person’s cases, something that Chaves made sure the film showed. “[The Warrens] work with this detective and it’s full-on true to life. It is a little bit of an amalgamation between different experiences and stories that they’ve had, but they were working with the police department. In the ’80s, police departments actually would work with psychics and clairvoyants to solve missing person cases. And Lorraine was one of these psychics. [The movie] is set in ’81 with the idea that this is a new decade [and] this is the most futuristic Conjuring movie that there’s been. So it’s kind of going into a different chapter of their careers.”

Julian Hilliard as David Glatzel in New Line Cinema’s horror film, THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, a Warner Bros. Pictures release | Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the most unnerving moments in the 10-minute clip is when we see David Glatzel (played by Color Out of Space‘s Julian Hilliard) at full possession as he contorts his body into unnatural positions in order to heighten the body horror of that experience. When asked about how that was accomplished, and if CGI was used to help, Chaves explained, “That’s actually a contortionist named Emerald Wulf. She was 12-years-old when we shot this and she doubled for our boy, and that’s all in-camera. The only special effect is we put Julian’s face on her. All those contortions were all in-camera, we didn’t have any gimmicks or anything. She did all of that and was able to twist her head around into that position.”

We’ve seen in previous Conjurings films how these demonic possessions and hauntings have taken a toll on Lorraine (played by Vera Farmiga). However, in THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, Lorraine’s gifts are front and center and are explored even more than in previous films. When talking about Lorraine, Chaves went on to explain, “The idea with it is there are things in [this movie] that are different from the classic… it kind of goes into Lorraine’s visions, her ability to connect with past trauma, past events, but also connect to other things as well. [In the movie] you see the camera [they’re using to record the exorcism] fall over and the audience gets to briefly see into the monitor, which is honestly a thing that I would do as a kid with a camcorder, I was fascinated by the direct feed of that stuff. But the tease idea in that is that Lorraine is the ultimate receiver. What if there was a broadcaster out there? What if there was an alternate Lorraine and what if she faced someone who is the exact opposite? And what happens when… you know, we’re talking about signals, the signals that she receives, and then also someone could put out [negative signals] and what happens when she comes in conflict with that?”

As the interview came to its natural end, I had to know, as a massive Conjuring fan, if we would be seeing any past characters return. “It’s the Avengers: Endgame,” joked Chaves. “Unfortunately, no, actually, fortunately [the Warrens] are up against something they’ve never faced before. I think there some fun in the newness of it.”

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT arrives in theaters and IMAX nationwide on June 4, 2021, and will be available on HBO Max for 31 days from its theatrical release.

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