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The Devil on Trial director's unsettling take on Netflix documentary: "Something went on in that house"

Did the Devil really make him do it? The director of the new documentary isn't sure

The Johnson family before the murder
Image credit: Netflix

When it comes to the world of the paranormal, it is always good to have a healthy dose of skepticism on your side. That is how Chris Holt approached the subject in his new Netflix documentary, The Devil on Trial. It explores what really happened when a young man tried to use “the Devil made me do it” as a legal defense in the 1980s.

When a heavily drunk Alan Bono got rough with his fiancee’s cousin at a bar, Arne Johnson tried to intervene. During the altercation, Johnson drew a five-inch pocketknife and stabbed Bono repeatedly, killing him. When he went on trial for murder later that year, he presented an unusual plea – not guilty due to demonic possession. Arne claimed to have been possessed since the exorcism of his little brother David the previous year.

Unsurprisingly, the defense didn’t fly and Johnson was convicted of manslaughter, but the case captured the imagination of people around the world. There was no way to prove that Johnson was lying, but it was equally difficult to prove he wasn’t, which was what drew Holt to the case for the new Netflix documentary, The Devil on Trial.

Holt said in a recent interview that he approached the subject with plenty of skepticism, despite not setting out to prove whether Arne and David were lying or not. “We wanted each brother to lay out their facts as it runs up to the core case.”

After spending several days filming with the family, Holt still seems on the fence. “I don’t think it was devils or demons, but I do think something went on in that house,” he explains, adding that he never got the impression that either brother was lying to him. “I believe that they believe this happened.”

Planning to watch more scary movies to get in the mood for Halloween? Check out all the upcoming films set to drop on streaming services and in theaters in the next few months.