Star Cast: David Glatzel, Debbie Glatzel, Carlo Adamo, Hannah Mae Beatty
Director: Christopher Holt
Original Language: English
Genre: Crime, Documentary, Horror
What’s Good: The documentary illuminates the nuances of the “Devil Made Me Do It” case by offering a comprehensive exploration, featuring diverse viewpoints from pivotal figures such as Johnson, his family, and legal representatives. Through a meticulous depiction of events, the film provides valuable insights into the intricacies of the trial.
What’s Bad: While the documentary attempts to present a credible account, it falls short of maintaining journalistic integrity. The authenticity of the evidence, particularly the processed photographs and enhanced audio recordings, is questionable. The film leans heavily on horror tropes and sensationalism, prioritizing shock value over intellectual engagement and nuanced exploration of the case.
Loo Break: Given the film’s tendency towards exaggerated horror tropes, viewers may find suitable moments for a bathroom break during the re-enactments, which often veer into predictable and clichéd territory.
Watch or Not?: Despite its shortcomings, “The Devil on Trial” offers a captivating exploration of a notorious murder trial with a supernatural twist. If you can overlook the film’s emphasis on storytelling over journalistic rigor, it provides an intriguing glimpse into a dark chapter of legal history.
Producer: Hattie Bridges Webb
Available On: Netflix
Writer: Christopher Holt
Netflix’s latest horror documentary, “The Devil on Trial,” delves into the controversial 1981 “Devil Made Me Do It” case, exploring Arne Cheyenne Johnson’s defense of demonic possession in the murder trial of his landlord, Alan Bono. The film combines fresh audio recordings, photographs, and interviews to comprehensively examine the case, revealing the challenges faced by Johnson’s defense and the aftermath of his conviction.
The Devil on Trial Movie Review: Script Analysis
Director Chris Holt’s script for “The Devil on Trial” navigates the complexities of the 1981 murder trial with a focus on the subjective nature of truth. By emphasizing the sincerity of the subjects’ accounts, particularly Arne Cheyenne Johnson’s denial of involvement and his family’s conflicting perspectives, the script attempts to present a multi-layered narrative. However, the film falls short in its script by prioritizing horror tropes and sensationalism over a more nuanced exploration of the case. Rather than delving into the intricacies of Johnson’s defense and the legal challenges faced, the script leans into exaggerated re-enactments, exploiting firsthand accounts for shock value rather than intellectual depth. This script choice hinders the film’s potential to provoke thoughtful reflection on the complexities of the “Devil Made Me Do It” case.
Furthermore, the script’s shortcomings are evident in its treatment of the evidence presented. The film claims authenticity in its opening credits, asserting the veracity of all audio recordings and photographs. However, the script fails to address the doubts cast on the authenticity of the processed photographs and enhanced audio recordings. This oversight contributes to a lack of journalistic integrity, as the script appears more interested in crafting a compelling narrative than rigorously examining the evidence. The film’s failure to engage with the implications of the evidence and its reliance on superficial shock value highlights a missed opportunity for a more intellectually satisfying exploration of the events surrounding the trial.
The Devil on Trial Movie Review: Star Performance
Arne Cheyenne Johnson’s portrayal of innocence and his sisters’ conflicting statements add depth to the narrative. However, the documentary’s focus on horror elements overshadows the potential for standout performances in conveying the gravity of the trial.
The Devil on Trial Movie Review: Direction, Music
Marked by a prioritization of horror aesthetics over a more nuanced exploration of the case. Holt’s direction leans heavily into exaggerated horror tropes, with scenes depicting houses shaking, lights quivering, and shadowy figures ominously lurking. While these elements contribute to the film’s atmosphere, they also overshadow the potential for a deeper engagement with the legal intricacies and moral questions surrounding the “Devil Made Me Do It” case. Instead of utilizing the directorial platform to challenge assumptions and delve into the implications of the trial, Holt opts for superficial shock value, resulting in an artistic shortfall.
The film’s musical score, composed to enhance the horror elements, adds to the overall atmospheric tone but lacks a subtlety that would complement a more intellectually stimulating narrative. The dramatic theme music and sound effects, while effective in certain moments, become a crutch for generating tension rather than allowing the gravity of the trial to unfold naturally. Holt’s decision to prioritize these elements over a more restrained approach detracts from the film’s potential impact, turning it into a visual and auditory spectacle at the expense of a thought-provoking exploration of the events at the heart of the documentary.
The Devil on Trial Movie Review: The Last Word
“The Devil on Trial” leaves viewers with a mix of fascination and skepticism. While it provides a glimpse into a unique murder trial, its commitment to horror aesthetics over journalistic integrity raises questions about the authenticity of the presented evidence. The film’s failure to engage deeply with the complexities of the case may leave audiences yearning for a more intellectually satisfying exploration of the events.
The Devil on Trial Trailer
The Devil on Trial was released on October 17, 2023.
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