The Devil on Trial (2023) Movie Review – A watchable true-crime/horror documentary

The Devil Did It

The month of October sees the usual onslaught of creepy offerings finding their way onto streaming platforms, and a renewed interest in demonic possession thanks to David Gordon Green’s The Exorcist: Believer is followed up with Netflix’s latest offering, The Devil on Trial. It has an even mix of true crime and horror, as the documentary follows the extraordinary case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who claimed to have been possessed by a demon while carrying out a brutal murder. 

The trial was a sensation when it took place way back in the 1980s because Johnson’s defence team ran with the theory that their client was possessed when he carried out the murder of his landlord and friend Alan Bono in Brookfield, Connecticut, in November 1981.

It was the first and only time demonic possession was used as a defence in a criminal trial, and the documentary features firsthand accounts of the people involved in the case. 

The documentary carefully examines the timeline of events as it starts off with the so-called possession of Arne’s younger brother, David Glatzel, who was 11 at the time. The family called paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are now most known for being the focus of The Conjuring franchise. In fact, this particular case provided the plot for the third film in the series, subtitled The Devil Made Me Do It

The film is a thoroughly interesting watch, regardless of whether you believe in demonic possession or not. It doesn’t veer in the direction of either side of the conversation, instead creating a very balanced argument, with both sides of the story explored. Both David and Arne feature in the documentary, as well as other family members who back up their story. 

Overall, the film is a must for horror and true-crime fans alike, but it won’t go down as one of Netflix’s best by any stretch of the imagination. 


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  • Verdict - 7/10

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