In anticipation to the upcoming sequel, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, let’s take a look at where the previous entries of James Wan’s Conjuring universe rank:
7. The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
There is no direct link to the main series with Chauves’ addition but instead shares a character with the first Annabelle movie and therefore, is technically categorised in this universe. It does have a similar vibe as the original two Conjuring films, but rather than being based on true events, The Curse of La Llorona is inspired by a Latin myth. Sadly, as sorrowfully alarming as this tale is, it felt like the lore could have been explored a lot more than what it was.
Linda Cardellini gives a solid performance but is ultimately let down by the lack of depth within the plot and predictable, cheap jump scares. As a whole, the film fails to meet the requirements of a horror. Not even the spooky appearance of La Llorona is enough to keep you intrigued. The movie is filled with exposition that is misplaced and takes you away from the horror before it has been given the chance to settle. Whether it is viewed as a stand-alone or as a part of the Conjuring franchise, The Curse of La Llorona does not hit its mark.
Dir. Michael Chauves
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez & Roman Christou
6. Annabelle (2014)
The weakest entry in its trilogy with a less than satisfying origin narrative that feels cheap and lacklustre. It is eminently forgettable and relies primarily on using classic horror tropes from more favourable films within the genre. Where Annabelle falls flat in a compelling story, it lacks in the scare factor all the same but the performances from Annabelle Wallis and Alfre Woodard are almost enough to rescue this film from the depths of the abyss. Despite not upholding the eeriness of the other instalments, the Annabelle doll is unnervingly creepy and its presence throughout is more than enough to keep viewers on edge.
As with all of the spin-offs in the Conjuring universe, it does link in to the main franchise – setting up the opening scene from the first of the series. The moment is very brief and severs all ties from the narrative of this film to future chapters; evidently this feature took an entirely fictional approach, something that the universe depended on for most of the spin-off movies so, as a result, many of the ‘haunting’ sequences felt exaggerated. If anyone was looking to have questions answered regarding the emergence of the doll’s demon tendencies, Annabelle is definitely more Hollywood than realistic.
Dir. John R. Leonetti
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard & Tony Amendola
5. The Nun (2018)
After making its petrifying debut in The Conjuring 2, the eponymous demon receives its own origin story set in a Romanian covent in 1952. The plot is quite dry and falls flat in several instances, relying heavily on the eeriness of the nun character to convey a strong narrative – and is unsuccessful in its attempts. There are a handful of sinister sequences that suggest a jump scare is being set up, leaving viewers watching with bated breath. However, it is often the case that these moments are solely to create tension and you find yourself wishing for something to actually happen.
The film does conclude with an unexpected and clever link into The Conjuring, playing a huge role in the dynamic between the Warrens whilst simultaneously setting the second film in motion. Unfortunately, this is the narrative’s only saving grace. There are moments that feel as though the film was not made with the intention of exploring the demon’s background and was rather to express the fear factor on the nun’s chilling appearance.
Dir. Corin Hardy
Starring: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet & Bonnie Aarons
4. Annabelle: Creation (2017)
The second instalment to the Annabelle trilogy stands as an insightful and overall better prequel than the first movie. From the beginning, there are numerous tropes implemented that leave even the toughest of viewers cautious. Of course, there is the titular doll but throw in a secluded farm and an unnerving scarecrow, the opportunities for terror seem endless – especially as the plot centres primarily around a group of children.
The film even ties in nicely with the previous Annabelle feature and covers far more of the demon doll’s backstory, which was oddly a minuscule component of the latter. There is some mild continuity regarding the origin story but this one certainly leaves little else to be explained. In comparison to other instalments, Annabelle: Creation goes a tiny step further in terms of violence with a sickening sequence involving Anthony LaPaglia and a crucifix. Of all of the spin-offs, this sequel definitely holds its own against James Wan’s Conjuring films.
Dir. David F. Sandberg
Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia & Miranda Otto
3. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Ed and Lorraine Warren make a welcome return to the series with their investigation into the widely controversial Enfield haunting. The sequel is similar to its predecessor in the sense that it opens up the possibility for more spin-offs, particularly with the demonic nun that is featured heavily throughout. Wan once again showcases his filmmaking abilities by maintaining an unsettling ambiance and building the tension.
Though it does have its fair share of horror, The Conjuring 2 delves deeper into the relationship between the Warrens – the narrative itself grounded by a significant love story. It is really a depiction of what Ed and Lorraine represent to one another; the raw connection that they share symbolic in its nature. Amongst the terror lies the beauty of familial love, which is amplified by gut wrenching performances from Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
Dir. James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor & Madison Wolfe
2. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
The third of the Annabelle series is currently the only spinoff to pick up directly within the franchise’s debut, The Conjuring – continuing on from the film’s prologue. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren yet again, which is – as always – a pleasure to watch; however, the threequel centres on their young daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), and the infamous artefact room in the Warren’s home.
Annabelle Comes Home is without a doubt one of the strongest spin-offs within the Conjuring universe. The incorporation of several terrifying myths and spirits in addition to the eponymous doll may initially sound excessive, but they are cleverly introduced and spread evenly across the runtime ahead of a frightening final showdown. Much like the original two Conjuring movies, there is a lot of heart rooted in the narrative – which is to be expected when the Warrens are involved – and succeeds in balancing out poignancy and horror.
Dir. Gary Dauberman
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace & Madison Iseman
1. The Conjuring (2013)
The first instalment thrusts viewers straight into the terrors endured by the Warrens. It sets the series up without being overly expositional, providing a brief background on the couple and the Perron haunting, and gives an enigmatic insight to the Warrens’ paranormal lifestyle. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga immediately draw you in with their charismatic portrayals of Ed and Lorraine; the chemistry between them is palpable.
The film itself is not short of heart-pounding moments. Wan perfectly executes the ‘edge of your seat’ aura that is present throughout the entire runtime as well as maintaining aspects of realism that aren’t ridiculously over-the-top. Wan also incorporates an impressive amount of long takes that ultimately add to the suspense and make for a more authentic viewing experience. The Conjuring is easily one of the greatest horrors of the 21st century.
Dir. James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston & Lili Taylor
Chronological On-Screen Timeline:
The Nun – set 1952
Annabelle: Creation – set 1955
Annabelle – set 1967
The Conjuring – set 1971
Annabelle Comes Home – set 1972
The Curse of La Llorona – set 1973
The Conjuring 2 – set 1977