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The Devil on Trial might be Netflix’s most terrifying true crime movie. Here’s why you should watch it

An archival photo of Arne Cheyenne Johnson in The Devil on Trial.

Over four decades ago, Arne Cheyenne Johnson went on trial for killing his landlord, Alan Bono, and his lawyer put forth the idea that Johnson wasn’t guilty because he was possessed at the time. That’s why “The Devil Made Me Do It” case is so famous that it’s been adapted numerous times in Hollywood, most recently in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It in 2021.

The new documentary, The Devil on Trial, has quickly become one of the most popular movies on Netflix because it revisits not only the trial of Johnson but also the events leading up to it including the apparent possession of a young boy, David Glatzel. It also offers a first-hand account of both incidents in a way that cuts through the Hollywood dramatizations and offers viewers conflicting perspectives on what really happened and why. If you want the full account, then these are three reasons you should watch The Devil on Trial on Netflix.

The survivors share their stories in their own words

David Glatzel in The Devil on Trial.

This story has been adapted in Hollywood so many times that it’s easy to forget that most of the people involved are still alive. Although paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren passed away in 2006 and 2019 respectively, all three of the Glatzel brothers, David, Alan, and Carl, participate in this documentary. The Glatzel’s sister, Debbie Glatzel, passed away in 2021, but her husband, Arne Cheyenne Johnson, also appears in this movie to share his perspective.

There are also interviews with Johnson’s lawyer, Martin Minnella, and others who had first-hand experience with the events recounted in this movie. Whether the supernatural or the powers of Heaven and Hell were involved is a matter of perspective. These events happened to these people, and Johnson and the Glatzel brothers are clearly carrying that burden to this day.

It casts a harsh light on Ed and Lorraine Warren

Ed and Loraine Warren in Netflix's The Devil on Trial.

The Conjuring films have built Ed and Lorraine Warren into real-life heroic ghost hunters whose exploits inspired a billion-dollar horror franchise. The reality of who and what the Warrens were appears to be much less straightforward, and not always morally upright.

David and Alan Glatzel recall the Warrens as being very supportive in the process of lining up an exorcism to help David. However, the Glatzels also recall how the Warrens capitalized on the incident with a book deal that enriched themselves and they shared very little of the money with the family who went through the ordeal. At best, it makes the Warrens look greedy, and at worst it portrays them as unfeeling con artists.

An alternative explanation

Carl Glatzel in The Devil on Trial.

Late in the film, Carl Glatzel, the oldest brother in the Glatzel family, opens up about his memories of what happened during both the possession of David and the night that Johnson killed Bono. And Carl does not hold back his opinion that it had nothing to do with the devil or evil spirits. Instead, Carl outright accuses the Warrens of not-so-subtly telling David how to act when he was supposedly possessed.

Those are all things that Carl has gone on record about before. The big allegation that Carl drops in the last few minutes of this documentary completely reframes the story of David’s possession and Johnson’s crime. Carl doesn’t deny that both events happened, but he suggests that there was a plausible alternative explanation as to why both David and Johnson believed that they were possessed. Regardless, neither David nor Johnson have significantly changed their stories in the following decades, and they maintain their versions of the truth in this movie. Now it’s up to you to decide who’s telling the truth.

Watch The Devil on Trial on Netflix.

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Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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