May 29, 2024

The Devil on Trial 2023 Movie Review

The Devil on Trial
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The Devil on Trial 2023 Movie Review

    In 1980, a young man had an upsetting moment where he felt like he was approached by a demonic being who wanted to take his soul. By the end of the following year, an innocent man had been stabbed to death, and a family was convinced that it was the devil that made it happen. The Devil on Trial explores the events surrounding the alleged possessions and the murder trial that follows through archival footage and dramatizations.

    For much of the film’s hour and forty-minute runtime, The Devil on Trial explores the claims of the central family, The Glatzels, that their son David had become possessed by a demonic entity, which later moved on to Arne Cheyanne Johnson, who would kill a man, claiming the demon made him do it. From the alleged first encounter to the boy’s exorcism in a local church, the documentary follows the series of events as they are told through the remaining family members and others who were involved, as well as audio tapes that were made during some of the events.

    From early chills about an ethereal presence stalking David to fights of rage and full-blown possession, the film lets the remaining family members share their memories of the events, why they believe that David really was possessed, and why it moved on to Arne.

    When The Devil on Trial gets to the murder and subsequent trial, the film trots out plenty of old news footage of news anchors reporting on the unique nature of the trial. This look at how the larger world responded to the claims helps further contextualize the viewer’s understanding of the larger moment that came to surround the case.

    The presentation of these events feels like they were approached with an even-handed attitude. While there is some attempt to be particularly dramatic at key moments in the story, it never feels like the film is trying to lead the viewer to believe or disbelieve the story. While a solid majority of the film is dedicated to hearing the story of why the possession was real, the film does make it a point to look at the other side of the coin.

    The Devil on Trial spends a substantial amount of time listening to one of David’s older brothers as he recounts things he saw that shine a different light on what may have happened. He recalls one of David’s possessed fits ending with a simple slap from their father and an angry command, as well as hints that their mother may have been drugging the family, which could’ve led to David’s possession episodes through drug induced hallucinations. These more rational explanations offer an alternative to the demonic theory the film spends most of its time on.

    Again, the film presents these elements with an air that feels like it is simply allowing the individual to tell their side of the story. There is less time spent of this side, but it feels like there is simply far less to be said. Making an even-handed approach require a shorter treatment for these elements.

    Ultimately, The Devil on Trial delivers a fairly interesting look at a bizarre murder case that made headlines for being tied up in occult claims of possession.

    The Devil on Trial 2023 Movie Review