The Conjuring Universe is ready to unleash its eighth movie, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, upon the world. It’s time yet again to follow Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) as they fight the forces of darkness while remaining eternally devoted to one another.
But where does the new movie rank in terms of the franchise? And how does the Conjuring series stack up as a whole? Let’s do what any self-respecting website devoted to movies would do and rank each film in the Conjuring Universe!
8. The Curse of La Llorona
The worst entry in The Conjuring Universe wasn’t even originally sold as a Conjuring movie. Marketing for The Curse of La Llorona played up the fact that James Wan was producing, but it also went out of its way to not call this a Conjuring entry. Of course, it was all a rouse – there’s a small but clear connection to the main franchise here, and that was meant to be a big surprise for audiences. Unfortunately, no one really cared, because the movie itself was a bust. Drawing on Latin American folklore is a good idea, in theory. And casting the always-reliable Linda Cardellini in the lead certainly doesn’t hurt. But The Curse of La Llorona is void of scares, emotion, or style, and the flick ends up being completely forgettable. In fact, I bet you even forgot it was part of the series up until now, didn’t you?
One thing The Conjuring series loves is Annabelle the doll, that porcelain-faced monstrosity that has a bad habit of ruining people’s lives. The doll was the first thing we saw in the original Conjuring film, and giving Annabelle her own standalone entry seems like a no-brainer. But Annabelle ends up being a bust – a cheap-looking riff on Rosemary’s Baby that lacks common sense and fails to advance the Conjuring universe in any meaningful way. No wonder the follow-up Annabelle film, Annabelle: Creation, tried to distance itself from this as much as possible.
6. The Nun
Much like Annabelle the doll, the Nun was a Conjuring character that felt memorable from the get-go, so giving her a spin-off movie makes sense. But despite some admittedly great gothic atmosphere and production design, Corin Hardy‘s The Nun is unexpectedly boring. And the last thing a movie about a demon nun haunting a spooky old monastery should be is boring. Plus, while casting Conjuring star Vera Farmiga’s sister Taissa Farmiga in the lead role sounds like a fun idea, it doesn’t really amount to much, and it ultimately feels like the younger Farmiga was wasted in her one-off film.
5. Annabelle: Creation
Everyone agrees that Annabelle: Creation is superior to Annabelle, but that’s a low bar to clear. Director David F. Sandberg knows how to do horror much better than Annabelle director John R. Leonetti, and making this a prequel rather than a sequel allows the film more room to breathe. But Annabelle: Creation still feels as if it’s missing something. The scares are better, but the movie is also meaner than any entry in the series up until this point, and that keeps the whole thing from truly succeeding. After all, the scares alone aren’t what makes the main Conjuring movies so successful – it’s the emotional heart that comes from Ed and Lorraine Warren.
4. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
After the fumble that was The Curse of La Llorona, director Michael Chaves bounces back nicely with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This third entry in the main series changes things up for the Warrens a bit – they’re no longer dealing with haunted houses. Instead, they’re trying to prove a murderer was possessed at the time of the crime. This essentially turns The Devil Made Me Do It into a kind of procedural detective story, with the Warrens traveling around looking for clues, and that ends up being a fun twist on the formula. And, as always, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are what keep things anchored as they continue to play the Warrens as uncommonly kind people who are also crazy about each other.
3. The Conjuring 2
It’s a little amazing to watch The Conjuring 2 and see how firmly James Wan already has the formula for these things locked down and perfected after only one other film in the series. Here, Ed and Lorraine Warren go to the U.K. to help a family with a haunted house, and while that story essentially makes this kind of a retread of the first movie, it’s still damn effective. This film also furthers the concept that Ed and Lorraine are just crazy in love with each other, and not even demons from hell can get in the way of that. Wan stages some truly great horror set-pieces here – the moment where a painting of the Nun essentially comes to life and attacks Lorraine is dynamite, and a sequence featuring a spindly creep known as the Crooked Man is so much fun that I’m shocked the character hasn’t gotten his own spin-off movie yet.
2. Annabelle Comes Home
I’m as surprised as you are that the third entry in the Annabelle series ranks this high, but it does! The Annabelle films have never really interested me much, but Annabelle Comes Home is a total blast from start to finish. It unfolds like a Halloween haunted attraction, with characters in a house moving from one room to the next and finding some new terrifying ghoul at every turn. The new slew of ghosts introduced here are great across the board – my favorite being the Ferryman, a ghost who is also a serial killer (I think?). On top of that, Annabelle Comes Home maintains the emotional heart that makes the main Conjuring films so special. The Warrens pop up in the beginning, and once they leave, that emotional heft falls on their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), who has her mother’s psychic abilities whether she likes them or not. An outcast due to her family’s reputation, Judy learns to harness what makes her special to help save the day. There’s also a subplot about a girl (Katie Sarife) trying to use the cursed junk in the Warren’s artifact room to contact her dead father, and that’s a neat idea for this series, and one that pays off surprisingly well. This may not be one of the scariest horror movies of the last few years, but it is one of the most entertaining.
1. The Conjuring
Does putting the first movie in a series at number one seem basic? Oh well, I’m doing it. And how could I not? The Conjuring is what started it all. It’s impressive that James Wan is responsible for the Saw franchise, the Insidious franchise, and the Conjuring franchise as well (now if only we could’ve gotten the Dead Silence franchise, too). It cannot be overstated how good Wan is at this, and what a firm grasp he has on horror as a genre. When you go back and watch the first Conjuring now, it’s amusing to see how it keeps the Warrens on the sidelines at first, while also building them up. We meet them in a prologue, but then we’re off to spend a large chunk of time with the very big Perron family, who move into a farmhouse and immediately get their asses kicked by the supernatural. Wan and the script by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes make things seem truly hopeless – the Perrons can’t afford to move, and they can’t fight back. Thank heavens the Warrens are out there, and willing to come to their rescue – free of charge. A lesser movie might’ve thrown some sort of needless conflict here, and had the Perron patriarch Roger, played by Ron Livingston, perhaps feel threatened by having super-capable man Ed Warren suddenly in his home. But The Conjuring knows it doesn’t need to go down such roads, and even gives us a moment where Ed and Roger have a nice heart-to-heart. Those heart-to-heart moments are what make The Conjuring sing. Yes, there are scares aplenty here, but they wouldn’t be nearly as effective if we didn’t learn to love these characters.
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