Say what you will about the spin offs to The Conjuring; they respect the hell out of the entries that came before it. All the more reason to get excited about The Nun! Check out my ranking of the first four films in The Conjuring universe
#1: The Conjuring 2 (second released in the series)
It seems that enjoying The Conjuring 2 more than The Conjuring is an unpopular opinion. In fact, depending on who you ask in the horror community, it’s a cardinal sin, right up there with a Jaws remake, or loving Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Well, I’ll get into that one more in October, but you get the picture. In this case, I have to commit the sin of enjoying a sequel more than the original.
The Conjuring movies are definitely my favourite of The Conjuring Universe to date, and that is for one simple reason: the presence of the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga add so much heart to the story in their portrayal of this couple. The reason that most people love the first two the most is that we truly care about what happens to Ed and Lorraine. Despite their abilities as demon hunters, their concerns are very grounded in the human realm, as they protect each other, their daughter and their marriage.
By the second film, they had done such a great job establishing the characters that you felt like you knew Ed and Lorraine going in; you already cared about them and the story was able to progress even more quickly, allowing for a far more frightening and suspenseful film. This one sees Ed and Lorraine investigating a claim by a British family that there is a presence in their home, seemingly possessing on and off the youngest girl in the family. Moving won’t help; an unfortunate trek across the road to spend the night at the neighbours does not end well.
A lot of people criticize the fact that the studios have not made use of the Amityville story here, but quite frankly I truly feel that we don’t need another Amityville. It’s been done to death (both excellently, and not so excellently). I was glad that they acknowledge it as an important case in this one, as it was clearly something that shaped the later lives of these two people, and it was a nice treat for the fans. But I am glad that they are choosing to focus on some of the Warrens other cases. However, I am glad that they opted to focus on some of their other cases here.
Plus, if you somehow have avoided the entirety of the Conjuring Universe, you really should watch this one for the first appearance of the creepy, titular Nun. She appears in a painfully frightening and suspenseful scene in which her shadow slowly approaches Lorraine for almost four minutes. By the time she attacks, you are so keyed up that the slightest movement is enough to make you jump.
#2: The Conjuring (first released in the series)
I remember seeing the trailers for The Conjuring. Any horror fan worth their salt remembers the “hide and clap” promo, where a whisper and a pair of hands coming from the dark and clapping right beside the heroine’s face were all it took for the audience to be reduced to screaming in either terror or excitement, or both. The Conjuring marked the start of something of a turn-around in horror, where simplicity trumps over relying on special effects. It told the tale of the Perron family, who moved to a home in the middle of nowhere. Amidst financial troubles that necessitated the father travelling often, the family of seven is terrorized by a presence in their home.
What makes The Conjuring so scary is the performances. The kids all did an amazing job in this one. In addition, the simplicity of effects holds up. In one particularly intense scene, a terrified girl stares into a completely black corner, insisting that there is something lurking there. Dare you not to hold up your blanket when her older sister goes marching over to take a look…
#3: Annabelle: Creation (fourth release in the series, prequel to Annabelle)
This one starts with the creation of the very first Annabelle doll, hand made and the first in a limited run of 100 dolls. Can I just say that even thought I find Annabelle to be truly creepy, seeing all of the individual parts is a million times weirder. Just….no.
Shortly after he completes the dolls, the blissful family is struck by tragedy when their daughter, Annabelle, is hit by a car and killed.
Fast forward to twelve years later and the couple has decided to open up their home to a group of girls from a local orphanage. The six girls move in. One, who is in a wheelchair, is very quickly terrorized by a demon. The girl accidentally springs the demon from the cage the dollmaker had created and it proceeds to wreak havoc on the household.
There are some genuinely creepy moments where you get to see exactly how the demon uses emotions to manipulate people, showing up as the couple’s daughter to trick them. In this one, you also get to see quite a bit of the demon itself, which we hadn’t seen much of before.
The end of the movie may be a bit confusing to a casual viewer, but it ties itself to the first Annabelle movie in a very clever way at the end, and it ends with the first scene from the first Annabelle movie. It feels like a very complete story. On top of that, we get a glimpse of the “real” Annabelle doll at the end as an Easter Egg (somehow Raggedy Ann just didn’t read as creepy as what they shaped Annabelle to look like…I don’t blame them).
#4: Annabelle (third release in the series, prequel to The Conjuring)
Annabelle is a spinoff of the first Conjuring movie, where the Warrens are helping some roommate nurses. Those poor, naïve nursing students…when they said in the first one that they said “Sure” to what they thought was the ghost of a little girl who wanted to live inside the creepiest looking doll known to man so that it could roam free in their apartment because they “like to help people,” I choked on my popcorn and had to leave the theater I was laughing so hard. The spinoff shows how the doll made to it those naïve little ladies who had clearly never seen a horror film.
This was the only one in The Conjuring Universe that I just wasn’t drawn in by. It’s an excellent way to spend a lazy afternoon, to be sure, but if you’re expecting crazy scares, this just isn’t the one. My biggest pet peeve about the killer doll genre is how long people hang on to the dolls, or how long they are willing to disbelieve that something is happening. In a lot of cases, the time that it takes for them to put the pieces together just starts to feel like so much filler. This is not to say I didn’t have fun; there are a couple of scenes that are definitely worth the price of admission, including the introductory scene involving a terrifying cult murder. I also genuinely believed that their baby was in danger ever single time. Overall, though, the plot just didn’t feel cohesive enough for me. Neither of the Annabelle movies feature the Warrens, and I just didn’t feel as invested with the other characters.
On top of that, it always makes me laugh at the fact that anyone in their right mind would purchases these things for their children in the first place. I would take one look at Annabelle and go “Nope.” The sequel goes some way to explain that the doll appears to be a collectors item from a famous dollmaker, but still NOPE. Annabelle makes especially irritating work of this plot driver. Not only do they put the doll in the nursery in the first place, when stuff goes down and then there is a house fire, she demands her husband throw the doll away. He complies, and they move. When the doll then appears in a packed box despite the fact that the husband is sure he tossed it, not only do they keep it, they put it in the nursery and it is still charred. Seriously?
What do you think? Are you stoked for The Nun? How would you rank The Conjuring movies?
The Nun hits theaters September 7!