As part of an exclusive virtual event, I got a chance to watch the first 11 minutes of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Introducing the footage was director Michael Chaves, who takes over from James Wan. Wan created and directed the first two films in the franchise and produced this one.
Before the footage played, Chaves told press: “We wanted it to be a departure from the classic Conjuring film. The Conjuring is the greatest horror franchise that there’s ever been. I’m a big fan of it.”
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It reveals a chilling story of terror, murder and evil that shocked even experienced real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. This film follows the case of Arne Johnson and it marks the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.
The opening scene we watched is a chilling one that shows Ed and Lorraine Warren performing an exorcism on 11-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). The demon takes over the little boy’s body and he contorts himself in such a way that one can only close their eyes and hold on to their seats. We then see Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who was also present during the exorcism, beg the demon to let go of David and take him instead.
Chaves added: “We wanted to make something that felt very different and to surprise fans and take the Warrens in a direction they’ve never been before. And the opening shows how serious we are about that and the new direction that it’s going to go.”
Chaves participated in an intimate Q+A and shared details on the filmmaking, the challenges, on Ed and Lorraine Warren and more.
This is based on a real case like the others. But unlike the other, a real murder took place. So were there any challenges you faced taking on this story?
“Each of the Conjuring movies are marketed as this is the darkest Conjuring movie and I think on this one it really is. With a lot of the other stories, there isn’t a real victim that you can point to. This is a story where there was a real murder. A man’s life was lost. We are telling it from the point of view of the murderer. The Warrens came to his aid.”
“When I first got this script I was losing my mind, I was excited. This is the Conjuring. Joining one of the greatest horror franchises that there’s ever been. I was also pulled in the other direction… how do I get this right? I grew up Catholic, I have my own set of beliefs. I was getting tested with this story. Do I believe if Arne Johnson was possessed? It was interesting because I was being pulled in both directions as well. That’s a bit of the story of the film.”
How much was practical and how much was CGI?
“The Conjuring has this expectation among fans, and also myself, what you want to see is practical. You don’t want to see too much CG.”
“All the contortions were all in camera. This little girl named Emerald and she did that for real. That’s not sped up by the computer. That’s not a digital CGI character. She really lifted herself up like that and twisted herself into the other position. Julian [Hilliard] didn’t do that… he’s amazing, a little superstar. But we did do a face replacement. We put his face on her body.”
“It was really important when we’re doing this stuff…it was really real. It’s a little bit of a lost art like these kind of practical effects and seeing things in front of the camera. Everybody feels rewarded and nourished in that cinematic need when you start seeing that stuff. Like look at John Carpenter’s The Thing. Even though I know it’s not an exorcism, there’s something about that where you know that stuff was real and it was specially weird and disturbing. That’s what I wanted for those moments in the exorcism.”
Ed and Lorraine are the heroes. They become popular than the demons or the monsters. Can you talk having them being the new Van Helsings of new cinema?
“That’s the reason I’m such a fan of it and why so many people come back to it. This is the most Warren-centric story. This really focuses on their story, even though it is the story of Arne Johnson. They really take centre stage in this.”
“Ed has a heart attack at the beginning of the movie and it happened in real life. It definitely has this impact on the rest of the film. They’re so lovable and so wholesome. It allows you to get darker because you have this emotional anchor of the Warrens. You love these guys and you’ll go on any journey with them.”
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is in theatres and available to rent at home on June 4.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
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