Avid readers of this blog will know that I am a devotee of the horror fiction genre in cinema. I am not entirely sure why, perhaps for the thrill of being moved (even if towards nightmares), perhaps because the acting muscles needed to succeed in horror are so vastly different from more common genres, or perhaps it is something to do with the power of God triumphing over evil. Indeed at one point in this excellent film, the target of the insidious force is “Purity, faith and love, God’s greatest triumphs”. The plot of the film explores the origin of the possession of Johnson and the Warren’s attempts at halting it before a sinister force wreaks unspeakable evil.
Patrick Wilson – Ed Warren
Vera Farmiga – Lorraine Warren
Ruairi O’Connor – Arne Cheyenne Johnson
Sarah Catherine Hook – Debbie Glatzel
Julian Hilliard – David Glatzel
John Noble – Kastner
Eugenie Bondurant – The Occultist
With my legal mind whirring constantly, I could but notice that this film is indeed all about a trial. This was the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who murdered his landlord Alan Bolo in 1981. The Defence attorney in this case sought to prove her client’s innocence by way of demonic possession, birthing in the Conjuring III the (hopefully) immortal line: “your honour, my client pleads not guilty by reason of demonic possession”.
The film itself was directed by Michael Chavez with a story by James Wan. It has Wan’s finger prints all over it, which was great for me as I am a big fan of his work. The film features stellar performances by Vera Farminga and a rather ailing Patrick Wilson (having suffered a demon-induced heart attack in the opening scene). There were innumerable chilling scenes, seeming to follow a 1-2-1 pattern of chilling, quiet, chilling again, presumably so as to not overwhelm the viewer. There were also an abundance of jump scares but not too many as is Insidious 3, where they really overdid it. And I found myself reflecting that hands played a recurring theme: hands slowly disappearing over shower curtain rails, hands disappearing around a sinister tree trunk and even a less than alive hand, which I will leave you to discover in your own time.
For me, the real surprise was seeing John Noble (Denethor II in Lord of the Rings) putting on a stellar performance as a retired priest with an obsession with the Occult. His unassuming but wildly threatening aura made the film that little bit more special for me. Perhaps my favourite scene was when a recently possessed David Glatzel (about 8 years old) is speaking to newly possessed Johnson in prison, in the presence of Johnson’s girlfriend Debbie Glatzel (now wife, as it happens). This minuscule child talks to his soon to be brother in law in quite quiet tones about the vicissitudes of being possessed, how it feels and what he should expect. I thought this was extraordinary, and not a little chilling.
Overall, as with everything James Wan touches it seems, this is a horror film of tremendous merit. At times all over the place and unintentionally comical (think obese, possessed, wet, nude, bloated corpse running around a house chasing Ed Warren), but superbly filmed and with an unlimited budget. There are some real wow moments to look out for, especially at the film’s peak some 90 minutes in. It is out in cinemas now, do go and see it if feasible.