A tale of demonic possession

A tale of demonic possession

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
A tale of demonic possession
David Glatzel with Ed and Lorraine Warren. (Photo © Netflix)

Horror movie fans should be familiar with The Conjuring franchise. And if you especially enjoyed the recent instalment, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021), then you might be interested in Netflix's latest documentary The Devil On Trial, which covers a true story. Directed by Chris Holt, this documentary delves into the real-life events that inspired the film and casts a spotlight on the Glatzel family, who fell victim to a demonic intruder. At the same time, it explores the lives of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who have become synonymous with The Conjuring franchise.

The supernatural has always been a subject of fascination and debate, much like UFOs or mythical creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. The Devil On Trial treads the fine line between scepticism and belief, making it a curious watch for those who ponder the unknown. While it may be challenging to take this documentary too seriously, it offers an entertaining option for your Halloween binge-watching list if you are open to exploring the unexplained.

The Devil On Trial is a unique exploration of an unusual case -- the first and only time in US history when demonic possession was used as a defence in a murder trial. The documentary skilfully weaves together firsthand accounts of alleged devil possession, a shocking murder and the subsequent legal proceedings. This extraordinary story forces viewers to confront their deepest fears about the enigmatic and the paranormal. The tale of the David Glatzel possessions and the trial of Arnie Johnson has been told in various movies and documentaries over the years. If you've followed some of these accounts, you might expect to know how it all unfolds. What sets The Devil On Trial apart is its approach: the audience gets to hear the story directly from the people who lived through the Glatzel family's ordeal. Director Holt does quite a fine job of emphasising these personal testimonies and connecting them with the Warrens, who play a significant role in the unfolding events.

The narrative initially delves into the backgrounds of the Glatzel family and their eventual encounter with the Warrens. It lays a strong foundation by providing insights into the dynamics within the family and their initial reactions to the mysterious occurrences. The film then transitions into a courtroom drama, with the focus shifting from David to Arnie. It presents numerous interviews with family members as they recount the events leading up to the tragic murder, revealing a complex web of emotions, beliefs and doubts.

One commendable aspect of The Devil On Trial is its refusal to glamorise the story for the sake of entertainment. The family members are not all on the same page when it comes to accepting that the events were either supernatural or the work of a malicious spirit. This disunity adds depth to the narrative, making it more relatable and realistic. The Warrens, famous for their roles as demon hunters in popular culture, are portrayed in a different light in this documentary. While some members of the Glatzel family fervently believe in the Warrens' guidance, others, including David's older brother Carl and certain authorities, view them as opportunists exploiting the family for financial gain. The Devil On Trial provides an even-handed examination of the Warrens, letting viewers form their own judgements about their authenticity.

The documentary's production values are notable, with the casting of actors who closely resemble the Glatzels and the Warrens from the 1980s adding authenticity to the storytelling. The use of old archive photos alongside scenes featuring these actors creates a seamless transition that blurs the lines between the past and present. The incorporation of haunting audio recordings and photos during the demonic outbursts intensifies the eerie atmosphere, leaving an indelible impact on the viewer. While The Devil On Trial may not evoke the same visceral fear as fictional horror films, it successfully maintains a consistently chilling atmosphere that lingers long after the credits roll. The documentary skilfully interweaves various elements, including personal accounts, expert opinions and audio-visual material to create an unsettling ambience that draws viewers into the mystery.

The Devil On Trial is not just a documentary about the supernatural; it's also a mystery tale that prompts meaningful discussions. The film presents both sides of the argument, catering to true believers and utter sceptics alike. Viewers are encouraged to use the experiences of those involved to inform their own stance on the events. This balanced approach ensures the documentary is not just a passive viewing experience, but a thought-provoking one.

  • The Devil On Trial
  • Starring Carlo Adamo, Hannah Mae Beatty, Foster Hamilton
  • Directed by Chris Holt
  • Now streaming on Netflix
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