Warning: This article contains full spoilers for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
While The Conjuring franchise has thrived on its roster of colorful supernatural foes, The Devil Made Me Do It takes the road less traveled by centering on a human antagonist. The motivations of the Occultist (Eugenie Bondurant) are left vague for much of the film, but a third-act twist recontextualizes her devotion to the demonic and hearkens back to an element of Conjuringverse lore first established (and last referenced) in 2014’s Annabelle.
Early in The Devil Made Me Do It, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) discover a witch’s totem hidden under the Glatzel house and very astutely observe that this creepy-ass thing is probably connected to the demon plaguing the Glatzels and Arne Johnson (who claims that, yes, the devil made him commit a murder, just like his real-life counterpart asserted). For more information on the totem, the Warrens’ friend Father Gordon points them to John Noble’s Father Kastner, a priest who helped to bring down a cult of Satan worshippers before he retired. That cult is the Disciples of the Ram, which was first mentioned in 2014’s Annabelle.The Occultist and Annabelle.
Who Are the Disciples of the Ram and How Do They Connect to Annabelle?
The Disciples of the Ram are a Satanic cult which, in Father Kastner’s estimation, is devoted to causing chaos and despair through blasphemy and pain. Case in point: the senseless and seemingly random murder of the Higgins family in 2014’s Annabelle, where Mr. and Mrs. Higgins are brutally killed by their estranged daughter Annabelle and her lover. Annabelle: Creation gave this moment some additional background by retconning Annabelle Higgins to be the assumed identity of Janice, an orphan who was possessed by a demon inside the Annabelle doll during an encounter with it at a farm in 1958. After this encounter, Annabelle/Janice escapes the farm, gets adopted by the Higgins family, grows up, loses contact with her adoptive parents, and joins the Disciples… all while still possessed by the Annabelle demon. It’s only when Annabelle/Janice kills herself while holding the doll (which the Form family next door very conveniently and coincidentally just purchased for themselves) that the demon is transferred back into its initial vessel.
News reports at the time of the Higgins murders specify that Annabelle/Janice and her boyfriend were members of a cult, but it’s only later in Annabelle that Mia Form’s research leads her to identify that cult as The Disciples of the Ram. Mia discovers that the Disciples of the Ram work to call forth inhuman spirits into our world, which require a soul to stay on our plane. These inhuman spirits target the weak and defenseless, like children and infants, and that’s a thread that remains relevant all the way into the events of The Devil Made Me Do It.Um, not cool.
In The Conjuring 3 (a.k.a. The Devil Made Me Do It), we learn that Father Kastner was responsible for uncovering the Disciples of the Ram and helping to bring them to justice. But they didn’t go down quietly. Kastner tells the Warrens that while the cult was on trial the lead prosecutor’s wife gave birth to a stillborn baby whose heart had grown on the outside of its body. This horrific tragedy led the prosecutor’s wife to commit suicide by laying down on a train track. As Kastner says, the Satanist’s “sole aim is chaos, its nectar despair.” Kastner, who has an artifact room somehow more unsettling than the Warrens’, surrounds himself in memorabilia related to the Disciples, obsessed with the fallout his unearthing of the Disciples caused. At the time, it seems like it may just be the loss of the prosecutor’s wife and child plaguing the old priest’s conscience, but when Lorraine returns to Kastner’s house alone later in the film, we learn his guilt hits much closer to home.
Is Isla Kastner a Disciple?
Father Kastner reveals that he raised a daughter, Isla, in secret on his secluded property. While Kastner was busy taking down the Disciples of the Ram, he failed to see that the isolated Isla was becoming increasingly obsessed with his research… and not in a “send demons back to hell because that’s what God wants” way. Isla grew apart from her father and pursued her fascination with the dark arts, becoming The Occultist who plagues the characters in The Devil Made Me Do It.
So it was Father Kastner’s obsession with the Disciples of the Ram that led Isla Kastner to become the Satan-worshipping Occultist, but does that mean she was a card-carrying member of the Disciples? And what do those cards look like? Neither of those questions have clear answers in The Devil Made Me Do It. Isla never mentions the Disciples herself, nor do we see her having drawn their symbol, the vaguely “A”-shaped rune that Annabelle/Janice scrawled in blood in the Forms’ house when she killed herself in Annabelle. But what Isla taught herself about demons she learned from texts gathered during her father’s investigation of the Disciples, so it’s likely that at least some of her evil education came from material tied to the cult.The A-shaped rune from Annabelle does not appear in The Devil Made Me Do It.
The Future of the Conjuring Universe’s Disciples
As of now, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever learn more about the Kastners and their connection to the Disciples of the Ram, seeing as Isla slices her father’s throat and then gets her soul taken by a demon at the end of The Conjuring 3. But what about the Disciples themselves? Was Isla the very last Satanist inspired by their teachings, or was Father Kastner’s victory over the group only partial? A resurfaced cult of chaos-spreading devil-worshippers sounds like they’d leave a big mess in their wake… messes that Ed and Lorraine could investigate over the next few Conjuring movies. The Conjuringverse has always propelled itself forward with already-established lore, so it doesn’t seem like a stretch to imagine the Disciples of the Ram evolving into the series’ shadowy antagonistic group, similar to HYDRA or SPECTRE. Too bad it’s not a cool acronym.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max now.
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