This article contains spoilers.
When James Wan passed the baton to director Michael Chaves for the third entry in the Conjuring series, Chaves shared that part of his preparation entailed studying not just the franchise itself but classic horror at large. He previously told Bloody Disgusting during a press event, “I think the Conjuring movies are love letters to the very best classic horror movies. Like The Changeling in the first movie. There are so many great references in that one.”
That meant that Chaves also drew from classic horror when creating The Devil Made Me Do It, paying homage to formative movies that shaped his love of the genre. Chaves wove in those homages in interesting ways, with some easier to spot than others.
Here are the most prominent nods to classic horror movies found in The Devil Made Me Do It.
The first and most apparent horror movie nod made its way into the trailer. This reference appears in the opening sequence, which sees series regular Father Gordon (Steve Coulter) getting dropped off at the home of the latest possession case. It’s a tip of the hat to the iconic image of Father Merrin arriving at the MacNeil household with a briefcase in hand.
The opening sequence packs in the references, most notably at the moment that sees young David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard) terrorized by the demon that’s fighting for control of his body and soul. Loud pounding drives him from his bed to hide in the bathtub, where he’s doused in blood. Just like Carrie White on prom night.
Chaves pulls from Psycho not once but twice. First, he blends Carrie with Psycho in the bloody shower scene during the opening sequence. Then, it’s referenced in an early tease of the film’s villain, The Occultist (Eugenie Bondurant). Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) is up in a tree, sensing that he’s being watched. He is; the Occultist slowly pulls the curtain back to watch, emulating Mother from Psycho.
The Devil Made Me Do It takes place in 1981, the same year the slasher sequel Halloween II was released in theaters. That makes it tough to overlook the similarities between Brookfield Hospital, where Ed Warren was taken post-heart attack, and Haddonfield Hospital. Even more interesting is the station wagon parked out front. While it doesn’t look like the one Michael Myers drove in Halloween, the entire visual seems like an all too perfect coincidence.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
The waterbed scare in The Conjuring 3 might’ve been a highlight for many, but for Chaves, it was a way to pay tribute to the horror movie that introduced him to Freddy Krueger; A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. In The Dream Master, survivor and Elm Street kid Joey (Rodney Eastman) falls asleep on his waterbed. Freddy assumes the appearance of a poster model from within the water. Freddy then attacks, much the same way that the ghastly figure attacks David in The Devil Made Me Do It.
David channeled Gage in the opening sequence in terms of scares that saw him attack his dad with a knife. But the most overt visual cue came much later, in the scene that saw Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) seek answers about a totem found beneath the Glatzel home from Father Kastner (John Noble). The introduction to Kastner borrows from Pet Sematary, specifically the first appearance from Jud Crandall.
Psycho wasn’t the only Alfred Hitchcock movie to appear in the Conjuring 3. Ed and Lorraine travel to Danvers, Massachusetts, and aid in investigating the missing person, Katie. Back at the hotel, Lorraine explains to Ed that she’s connected to the one behind the curse and that the connection still lingers. This scene more than visually borrows from Vertigo, but thematically as well. Hitchcock’s classic saw a former police detective become obsessed with a woman that eventually commits suicide. The man then becomes obsessed with another woman that appears to be her doppelganger, discovering much later that they’re the same person and part of a scheme. In Conjuring 3, Lorraine faces off against her counterpart, a woman that matches her background and powers but long ago took a dark path. They’re two sides of the same coin.
In the climax, Ed enters the Occultist’s tunnels to find and save Lorraine. Instead, the Occultist finds him first and casts a spell that causes him to channel Jack Torrance. With a sledgehammer, he stalks Lorraine and attempts to murder her, smashing walls along the way.