It is absurd to think that The incantation is possibly the second most successful shared universe in Hollywood.
Of course, this is arguably more of an indictment of the struggles companies like Warner Bros. and Universal faced when trying to start a competition for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s still impressive that a gigantic tribute to the populist horror of the 70s was successful almost successfully two billion dollars in eight films. After all, this is a quality that is anchored in a cinematic nostalgia that has been achieved by casting character actors who are significantly older than most of the leading horror actors, in particular Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, but also Linda Cardellini, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston.
After a variety of spin-offs and tie-ins, including The nun, The curse of La Llorona and the separated Annabelle Trilogy, The incantation: The devil made me do it is the third entry in the franchise’s cornerstone series. It is the first entry in this major series that was not directed by James Wan. Instead, Wan is handing director responsibility to Michael Chaves, who is in charge of The curse of La Llorona. Still, in terms of aesthetics and scale, The devil made me do it is recognizable as a continuation and further development of the two previous entries in the trilogy.
Similar to The Conjuration 2, The devil made me do it is a curious hybrid of genres. It feels like a conscious effort to build a blockbuster horror film that takes elements from populist films and brings them back to the mechanics of classic horror films. To like The Conjuration 2, this hybridization is perhaps more interesting than effective. It doesn’t quite work, but it deserves investigation.
The Conjure up Movies are nominally built around real-life married paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in one of the most conventionally wholesome relationships seen in modern mainstream pop culture. The films, however, are largely a vehicle for a certain brand of horror nostalgia. The exorcist is an important creative touchstone for that Conjure up Franchise, along with other seventies horror like The Amityville horror or The stone ribbon or Something evil.
The Conjure up Movies are old-fashioned in their approach to horror. One of the most noticeable aspects of The incantation, building on Wan’s previous collaboration with Wilson in Insidious, was a decidedly back to the basics of horror filmmaking in response to the trends of the early 21st century. The incantation existed as a traditionalist contract with found footage horror like The final exorcism or Paranormal activity, as a healthier alternative to the graphic violence of films like this Saw Franchise or the hostel Series, and as more cloaked nostalgia than the wave of remakes like The Texas chainsaw massacre.
The devil made me do it is structured similarly to The incantation and The Conjuration 2that draws on the same approach to horror storytelling. Chaves even borrows some pointers from Wan, like the long tracking shots through standing sets, to orient the audience before the horror begins. To like The incantation and The Conjuration 2, The devil made me do it loves to let grotesque monsters storm into the camera from dark shadows and is set to music by an orchestra that specializes in scary chords. The film uses the well-known trick of entering a monster into the picture from the opposite side of the intended side.
These are not innovative or radical approaches to horror movie storytelling. They are not particularly nuanced. In fact, they are unlikely to be particularly effective against an audience familiar with these tropes. Because while those special tricks were old hat when they were from Wan in The incantation, they at least had the luxury of standing out from a decade of films that had aggressively rejected this traditionalist horror film grammar. Still has the zeal with which The devil made me do it uses these proven techniques.
In fact, it’s interesting how The devil made me do it is much more effective when it relies on old-fashioned practical effects than when it leans on computer-generated spectacles. A simple and easy-to-reproduce effect of a cereal box falling off the shelf is more annoying than watching a computer-generated body distort in impossible ways. The devil made me do it arguably works best when leaning fully into nostalgia by relying on tricks that they know will work.
At least the Conjure up Franchise exists as an interesting counterpoint to the more esoteric nostalgia of the 70s that influenced less mainstream films like Ari Aster Hereditary or Midsummer. If The incantation Quotes from The exorcist, then Hereditary moves out Don’t look now and Midsummer Elevators from The Wicker Man. This contrast in approach to the horror nostalgia of the seventies is illuminating because it is about something very interesting about the success of the Conjure up Series. It represents a very aggressive attempt to put the horror genre at the center of modern blockbuster filmmaking.
It is worth recognizing here that this is nothing new or radical. The influence of The exorcist on the Conjure up Franchise is educational. The exorcist is as pure a horror film as there is, which has been known to have been restricted in Catholic countries like Ireland for decades. However, The exorcist was also a massive populist success. The film was a box office phenomenon that seemed to confuse and confuse critics. It also received a Best Picture nomination. All of this, of course, goes before the revolution of jaw and war of stars, but it still shows the populist appeal of this type of filmmaking.
The Conjuration 2 attempts to fold modern blockbuster beats into a conventional tale of demonic possession, with a surprisingly intense chase as the Warrens desperately try to get back from the train station to the Enfield house. The devil made me do it doubles that attempt at finding more recognizable and acceptable narrative templates and teases the possibility of paranormal legal drama like The exorcism of Emily Rose before settling into a satanic conspiracy thriller in which the Warrens battle a real human antagonist with a clear evil plan.
As mentioned in the title, The devil made me do it comes from the notorious trial of the manslaughter of Alan Bono, who was killed by his tenant Arne Cheyenne Johnson. Johnson famously claimed that he was not guilty of demonic possession. It’s a fascinating historical case. Of course, the plot of the film has little tangible connection to the facts of the case in question, but uses the premise as a starting point for a wild adventure in which the Warrens find that a sinister hand pulls all strings.
As a result, the mechanics of action is from The devil made me do it evoke like the mythology-heavy mechanics of modern blockbusters like Cruella or Spiral: From the book Saw. The plot of The devil made me do it very quickly a much larger measure of the case than a single demonic possession, but instead suggests a larger pattern of behavior with more far-reaching consequences. In this sense, The devil made me do it feels like a modern sequel that follows the standard rules of escalation. Before they know it, the Warrens are investigating other related cases and are directly targeted themselves.
As in The Conjuration 2, this approach is more interesting than successful. The structural requirements of a thriller like this actively undermine the stakes a horror needs to function. To like The incantation and The Conjuration 2, The devil made me do it still wants to be a horror movie about characters attacked by demonic forces, and this genre works on a sense of ever-increasing fear and anxiety that builds into an inevitable crescendo. Of course, it’s a cliché to say so everyone Example of the genre follows the pattern, but many great horror scenarios work through this sense of intrusion and advancing horror.
The structural requirements of a conspiracy thriller oppose this. The devil made me do it is not a film with growing fear. Instead, it’s driven by flashbacks and exposure. This isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, but there is a recurring feeling about that The devil made me do it wants to have his cake and eat it. It wants to continue using the tricks and tropes of the haunted house and demon possession genre while structuring itself as something entirely different.
To give an example, the film begins with an attempted exorcism by young David Glatzel who has become possessed by a demonic power. This could be the culmination of. be The incantation or The Conjuration 2although it also reminds of the cold opening of Amityville The Conjuration 2. This event serves as a stepping stone to the action of The devil made me do itas the characters try to figure out who’s targeting the family. However, The devil made me do it neither is ready to completely sacrifice the familiar structural element of a young family terrorized by demonic possession. So you agree on a wrong compromise.
About halfway through the movie The devil made me do it flashes back to David Glatzel’s arrival at the house. The scene evokes similar sequences in The incantation and The Conjuration 2. This would be the beginning of a horror film. David might notice something strange or move something, enough to make the audience nervous but not enough to scare the family out of the house. However, The devil made me do it has no time and no space for such a structure, instead it builds on a flashback sequence in which David is attacked by a demonic force on a water bed.
In itself, the waterbed sequence works. It’s a nice tall concept. It takes something familiar and domestic and makes it terrible. The premise allows for some nice visual imagery, with the shapes under the bed reminiscent of both jaw and A nightmare on Elm Street. However, the sequence doesn’t work the same way as in both The incantation or The Conjuration 2because it is not the culmination (or escalation) of a creeping discomfort. Instead, it’s just portrayed out of context as something that happened and has since been resolved, removing any sense of risk or immediacy.
After all, using the flashback framing device, the viewer already knows how the scene should play out. This is the story of how David Glatzel became possessed before the exorcism saved his life. This creates no tension. There is no fear. There is only one simple statement of fact. The problem goes beyond undermining these types of fear sequences. The devil made me do it constantly over-explaining concepts that are even more frightening because of their ambiguity, because everything has to fit together as part of a larger and logical puzzle.
There are other interesting aspects of The devil made me do it. The Threequel signals the transition of the series from the seventies to the eighties in an interesting way. The opening sequence of the film contains mandatory and overt shoutouts to the horrors of the seventies like The exorcist and Carrie to put the film in the context of the other two entries in the franchise. But through its climax The devil made me do it pulls out more explicitly The glow. It’s a clever shift in the franchise’s frame of reference.
Of course, the film marks the start of a new decade with other cultural markers like Blondie and the aforementioned waterbed. It also deals pretty directly with the satanic panic of the time. For the first time in the franchise, the Warrens take on a primarily human antagonist, a Satanist who terrorizes innocent people. It’s a sharp fulcrum for a film franchise that has traditionally turned its characters against demonic and supernatural forces.
To be honest, being a blockbuster pretending to be has some decidedly uncomfortable about it “Based on real events” which justifies the satanic ritual abuse panic of the eighties by the perspective of a real couple that the New England Skeptical Society has described as “dangerous fraud”. To be clear, it is highly unlikely that anyone’s opinion about Satanism or their belief in satanic ritual abuse will be changed by The devil made me do it, but it still feels like a surreal and strange decision to make a movie like this at a time when significant segments of the American population believe there is a big satanic child sacrifice still Event.
The satanic panic was a real in American popular history, and it had very real consequences. The nonchalance with which The devil made me do it conjures up the language and the tropics of this strange event to sell a blockbuster horror. It is especially frustrating because The devil made me do it plays with this iconography without saying anything about it. When Lorraine asks why Satanists would do this, a seasoned priest replies: “The ‘why’ is irrelevant. The ‘why’ contradicts the goals of the Satanist. “
That’s a shame because it would be interesting to see a horror film deal with satanic panic in its original context, and perhaps even trace this back to more modern iterations of the same fear. Instead, The devil made me do it reduces this to simple window dressing, to a trope that facilitates the superherofication of the horror genre by providing the Warrens with an archenemy whose powers justify the use of slow motion in action shots with a sledgehammer. It’s all a wasted opportunity.
The devil made me do it It’s an interesting hybrid of genres, but it doesn’t quite work. The structure of the film relies heavily on flashbacks and exposure, which undermines the growing fear and escalation that a story like this needs to function. Individual set pieces work quite well, but do not result in a larger whole. The result is something of an odd curiosity, a piece of jewelry that might be worth locking up for study.