This article contains The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It spoilers.
Set in 1981, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It centers around the real case of Arne Johnson, a young man who murdered his landlord and claimed that he was possessed at the time. While this case, which the Warrens did have involvement with, is the framing device of the story, the meat of it, where the Warrens strive to understand what the demon wants and where it comes from, is fictional and has a neat tie-in to the wider Conjuring universe.
We discover that an occultist has summoned the demon using witches totems in order to gain great power. This occultist is revealed to be the adopted daughter of retired priest Father Kastner (John Noble). Kastner was instrumental in bringing down a cult called The Disciples of the Ram, an endeavor he worked on for almost a decade. He has his own ‘artefact room’ similar to the Warrens’ which is packed with books on the occult and items from his research. It is implied that his daughter’s fascination with her father’s work is what drew her into the dark arts.
But this is not the first time we have met the Disciples of the Ram…
This seemingly casual reference actually links The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to the films Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation (the prequel of Annabelle, which is itself a prequel to the first Conjuring film).
At the start of Annabelle, Mia (Annabelle Wallace) and John Form (Ward Horton) are attacked in their home by a couple who are part of the cult of the Disciples of the Ram. The couple who attacked them are the child formerly known as Janice, who by that point was possessed by a demon and went by the name Annabelle, and her cultist boyfriend. The two murdered the Forms’ neighbors, the Higgins’, (who were Annabelle/Janice’s adoptive parents) and break into the Forms’. The police arrive and shoot Annabelle/Janice’s boyfriend, while Annabelle/Janice shuts herself in the Forms’ nursery, grabs the Annabelle doll, and slits her own throat leaving a marking on the wall – this is the symbol of the Disciples of the Ram. The demon that was possessing Annabelle/Janice is transferred to the doll, which terrorizes the Forms before ending up in the artifact room belonging to the Warrens.
Where had the demon that possessed Annabelle/Janice (and later the doll) come from?
We learn from Annabelle: Creation that the doll had been the original host of the demon decades back. The doll was made by a man named Samuel Mullins (played by Anthony LaPaglia) who, with his wife, Esther, (Miranda Otto) unwittingly invites a demon to possess the doll, thinking the demon is the spirit of their dead daughter, whose name was Annabelle. When they learn of their mistake they enlist the help of priests to bless the house and contain the demon in the doll, in a blessed, locked closet in their late daughter’s room.
Later the Mullins’ take in several orphans including a girl called Janice. Janice finds the possessed doll and the demon eventually possesses her. After murdering both Esther and Samuel, Janice escapes and is taken in by an orphanage in Santa Monica, where she calls herself Annabelle. Later she is adopted by the Higgins family (the family murdered at the start of Annabelle).
That’s a lot of Annabelles. The short version in chronological order then:
The Mullins accidentally conjure the demon into the doll. The demon leaves the doll and possesses child Janice. Possessed Janice kills the Mullins and goes to live with the Higgins. Possessed Janice grows up, joins the Disciples of the Ram – who are into devil worship – murders the Higgins, attacks the Fords, and then kills herself. The demon returns to the doll, and terrorizes the Fords until family friend Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) offers up her soul to the demon. The doll goes to some nursing students and eventually finds its way to the Warrens.
This is interesting for several reasons. Firstly of course because Easter Eggs tying installments together are a massive part of the Conjuring universe, no less than they would be in the MCU or similar. But secondly because this could provide the perfect jumping off point for the next spin-off. The previous two Conjuring movies prompted standalones not featuring the Warrens – Annabelle, and its two sequels, sprung directly from The Conjuring while The Conjuring 2 introduced us to The Nun who got her own origin story. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is no less deserving of its own spin-off and there’s untapped material here.
The backstory of Father Kastner and his daughter is only skirted over briefly here, there’s more story to tell. What happened with the Disciples? How did his daughter get involved with the cult, if indeed she ever was? What’s going on inside Kastner’s evidence room that convinces him to keep the books and papers locked away rather than destroy them?
Even within the Conjuring universe there has always been scope for different flavors – indeed, The Devil Made Me Do It moves away from the ‘70s haunted house vibes of the first two movies and into the 1980s’ Satanic Panic era. A cult movie featuring Kastner vs. the Disciples of the Ram could be an excellent addition to the catalogue.