Now that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is on streaming and Blu-Ray, it’s worth looking back at some of horror’s earlier forays into similar territory. With a higher focus on possession than ever, The Conjuring franchise’s third main installment spends a fair amount of time showing the actual possessing occultist herself.
Witchcraft and the occult is territory that’s been covered by filmmakers who either have delved into the horror genre or outright swim in it. Meaning, it’s a topic that’s been included in several genres (outside of straight horror cinema). With over several decades of using the occult as subject matter, there has been plenty of material for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to mine from.
10 Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Stream On Starz
The original Rosemary’s Baby is slow-burn horror all the way. Compared to most modern horror, The Conjuring series absolutely takes the same approach. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is no different, as it still provides audiences with an intimate look at both the Warrens and the possessed teen.
Roman Polanski’s thriller classic also has a stark focus on character development over exploitative jump scares. While the third Conjuring film does contain its fair share of jump scares, they’re not all the film builds towards. The impact comes from who is being scared (tormented), be it the Warrens, the possessed teen, or Rosemary herself.
9 The Wicker Man (1973) – Stream On Prime
The Wicker Man is The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It multiplied by a couple hundred. Police Sergeant Neil Howie is less informed about the occult than the Warrens, but he’s surrounded by a lot more of them.
For the sake of specificity, the Celtic pagans in The Wicker Man are not exactly like the occultist in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. The latter film’s occultist actually comes face to face with a demon, whereas it’s as if the Celtic pagans truly believe themselves to live in another time. However, like the occultist, the Celtic pagans are not above human sacrifice to achieve their own sinister, misguided goals.
8 The Exorcist (1973) – Rent On Apple TV
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It takes a look at exorcisms with a restrained focus and a limited cast. The Exorcist is the king of this approach. Furthermore, both films’ possessions focus on a child (although, in Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, it’s only the possession that opens the film).
The key to The Exorcist‘s relation to The Conjuring‘s third installment is its focus on loved ones. Each entry in the franchise has shown one family member possessed while the others stood by in terror, helping how they could. This, in and of itself, is the very relationship shown between Regan and Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist.
7 The Sentinel (1977) – Rent On Vudu
Given that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It features uniformly strong performances from its cast young and old, time may show it to have a similarity with The Sentinel in more ways than one. If the cast of the third Conjuring film goes on to star in important films spanning multiple genres, it will be just like The Sentinel‘s.
Included in this tale of a model who moves into an apartment/gateway to Hell are Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger, and Beverly D’Angelo. Some of these stars play neighbors pushing the protagonist towards a dark result she herself doesn’t want (as seen in both Rosemary’s Baby and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It).
6 Suspiria (1977) – Stream On Tubi
The heads of Tanz Dance Adakemie are witches of the most malicious order. Suspiria is far more brutal than anything seen in The Conjuring franchise. However, they’re both about the same type of person: an evil, misguided individual (or group) who believes it’s fully okay to ruin someone’s life with the black arts.
5 The Evil Dead (1981) – Stream On HBO Max
While the possessor in the third Conjuring film is prominently featured, the viewer will never truly know the identity of the possessor in The Evil Dead. That chilling anonymity is just one thing that works about the film (and the series in large).
While the appearance of the possessed differs in the films (there’s a substantial amount of low-budget makeup in Evil Dead), they display similarities. The possessed can float in The Conjuring‘s world, although apparently only in the midst of an exorcism. In the breezy, short run time The Evil Dead, it doesn’t matter when, like with Ash William’s sister, Cheryl.
4 Hellraiser (1987) – Stream On Prime
If Candyman is not the most notable Clive Barker adaptation, it’s easily Hellraiser. Directed by Barker himself, the initial installment of this long-running franchise is a front-to-back horrific masterpiece.
The plot follows Kirsty Cotton as her father (Larry) and his new wife (Julia) move into a creepy new house. Little do they know that up in the attic is Larry’s evil brother, Frank. Frank has dealt in the world of pain/pleasure and is never satiated, even in Hell. With the assistance of Julia, he can return to the world and escape a pack of demons in the process. Hellraiser introduced two major villains to cinema history: the Cenobites (primarily Pinhead) and Julia herself (courtesy of a terrific performance by Clare Higgins).
3 The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988) – Stream On Max Go
This underseen Wes Craven, late-’80s genre movie features a heavy focus on the occult. In The Serpent and the Rainbow, instead of a husband-wife investigation team, there’s an ethnobotanist.
Featuring a scientist for a protagonist is a wonderfully unique perspective to take when analyzing Haitian zombification. It gives the audience the sense that he, Wade Davis (Bill Pullman), at least somewhat has the brains to know what he’s doing (like the Warrens). Even still, he quickly gets in over his head, and that disregard of ostensible safety is key to instilling the audience with effective chills.
2 The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005) – Rent On Vudu
The plot follows self-proclaimed agnostic counselor Erin Bruner as she seeks to defend a Catholic diocesan charged with negligent homicide in relation to a botched exorcism. Directed by a pre-Doctor Strange Scott Derrickson, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is very similar to the third main installment of The Conjuring franchise.
While the subject of the court cases is different (here, a priest is investigated as opposed to the possessed), the films both cover similar territory. Furthermore, a lot of the jerky, cracking movements displayed by Emily Rose have gone on to be featured in numerous films, including The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
1 The Witch (2016) – Stream On Showtime
The VVitch or The Witch is The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It in Colonial Williamsburg (so to speak). Like other sources of ostensible Conjuring inspiration, it also takes the slow burn approach en route to revealing its powerful movie witch.
The identity of the possessor is, at most, only alluded to until fairly late in either film. The Witch, however, is more elusive still. In The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the audience knows the spirit has transferred from one child to the other. In The Witch, a child is kidnapped, and the audience is not entirely sure as to what happened (Is the child gone forever, or are they possessed somewhere in the woods?). This dark uncertainty helps make The Witch a modern horror classic.