We’ve known for quite a while now that The Conjuring 3, unlike its two predecessors, would not be another haunted house movie. Director/producer James Wan said as much when I spoke to him in 2017 prior to the release of The Conjuring 2, and producer Peter Safran echoed those sentiments during an interview on the set of Annabelle: Creation that same year. That idea has set up fans with special anticipation for the upcoming horror film, but also a big question: if it’s not a haunted house movie, what is it? According to director Michael Chaves, the answer is that it is more of an investigation-driven mystery, with David Fincher’s Se7en being a key touchstone for the filmmakers.
I joined a couple of other journalists on a trip to the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California this past week for an interview with Chaves about The Conjuring 3 – or as it is officially known, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – and it was while talking about genre that the filmmaker explained what audiences should expect from the narrative. Given the title of the movie is taken from the legal defense used by one of the people in the true story on which the film is based, I asked if we should be anticipating a courtroom drama, and the director explained.
It is definitely not a courtroom drama... that wasn't the intention either. The courtroom scenes are, even though there's a couple in the trailer, they are less than a minute of screen time. The core of the story is the investigation. It is the Warrens’ journey to get to the bottom of this and what are the origins of it. And 100% from the very beginning when it was brought to me, James [Wan]… one of the reasons I think I connected with James so much is we have a shared love of the same movies, and Se7en is one of our favorite movies.
Released in 1995, Se7en was the second film directed by David Fincher and centers on a pair of detectives (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman) hunting down a sadistic, psychotic serial killer who chooses his targets based on the seven deadly sins. The movie was a massive hit when it was first came out, part of a wave of crime-centric horror features released in the wake of Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning The Silence Of The Lambs, and 26 years later people continue to hail it as one of the best of its subgenre (James Wan and Michael Chaves evidently included).
Without going into full detail regarding exactly what it is that Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) will be investigating, the Conjuring 3 director explained that part of his intention with the film is to not just have the couple spend all of their time focusing on a single location (which came part and parcel with the haunted house setup). The new movie will not only see the Warrens more on the move in the story, but it will also highlight the larger profile that they had in real life during the 1980s. Michael Chaves aid,
Basically he was like, 'Let's do Se7en for the Conjuring universe. And even though it's like the Warrens version of Se7en, it's not like the Brad Pitt version of Se7en – that kind of the idea of an investigation, a supernatural investigation, where we can take the Warrens, we can kind of bring them into the world. One of the things that hasn't even been touched on in the other movies is going into the ‘80s they basically had a reputation; they were kind of both famous and infamous, and they actually started to work with police departments and they would work on these missing person cases.
The Conjuring 2 features moments that suggest that the Warrens’ profile is raised following their work on the Amityville Horror case, at one point appearing together as guests on a talk show, but it seems that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It will take that idea even further. Part of that will be seeing the duo working directly alongside members of law enforcement as they look into the case of Arne Johnson – a young man who in real life murdered his landlord and then claimed in court that he was innocent because he was possessed by a demon during the time of the crime.
Just like how The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 were inspired by real events and then taken in fictional directions, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It will feature a blend of reality and imagination, but one thing that it definitely isn’t making up is the relationship that the Warrens had with authorities. As Michael Chaves noted, the Department of Justice archives have guidelines from the era that explain how to work alongside psychics (you can check them out here), and they were partially based on experiences working with the real Warren and other “mediums” like her:
It actually became a thing in the ‘80s, so much so that the Department of Justice issued a guidebook to police departments on how to work with psychics. You can literally look it up; it's in their archive section on their site, but it was because of Lorraine Warren and other psychics like her. They work with a detective in this, and that's one of the one of the threads of the story. The big intention was let's just blow the doors off the haunted house. Let's take them into the world and see them in this situation that we've never seen them in before.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It launched its first trailer late last month, but now it is just a few weeks away from release – so you better start planning your Conjuring Universe rewatch schedule now. The movie will be arriving in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously starting on June 4, and between now and then be sure to look out for more from my interview with Michael Chaves right here on CinemaBlend.