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The Conjuring Universe: An Analysis of the Franchise

I’m probably one of the biggest horror buffs that are out there. I have watched every horror movie known to man, even the really sh***y ones because, let’s be real, some of them are pretty bad. However, my favorite type of horror movie is the horror movie that falls under the paranormal spectrum—the movie where the villain or bad thing is something that is in the shadows, something that you may not be able to see right away, if at all. It is the feeling that someone is watching you or someone is possessing you. These kinds of movies are right up my alley. So, when James Wan came with The Conjuring, not only did he deliver just as he did with Insidious but it also renewed my love for these types of movies.

In this photo, there are 7 photos. A collage of all the movie posters from each movie in the Conjuring Universe.
Movie posters in The Conjuring Universe franchise made into a collage.

 

Background Info

Edward Warren “Ed” was born September 7, 1926. Lorraine Warren was born on January 31, 1927. They married in 1945 and had their daughter Judy in 1950. Ed was an author, lecturer, and self-taught demonologist. Lorraine was a medium and a clairvoyant.

The Warrens were known for investigating paranormal haunting and incidents such as the Amityville Haunting case in New York. They also had The Warrens Occult Museum that housed many artifacts from cases they investigated, including Annabelle, the possessed Raggedy Ann doll. Of course, many were skeptical about what The Warrens say they did and saw, but that is for you to decide whether or not you believe. 

Movie Analysis 

Conjuring (2013) Annabelle (2014)
The Conjuring 2 (2016) Annabelle: Creation (2017)
The Nun (2018) The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
Annabelle Comes Home (2019) The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

In The Conjuring Universe franchise films, the Warrens are played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Now let’s break them down in the order they’re supposed to take place. Warning: Spoiler Alert

The Nun (2018): Takes Place 1952

In 1952, two nuns in Saint Cartha’s monastery in Romania are attacked by an unseen force. This happens after they were to retrieve an ancient Christian relic. Sister Victoria survives, and she flees. There is a demon appearing as a nun who hung herself. She is discovered by a man named Frenchie who sends supplies to the nuns. Growing up Catholic, I always understood many of the rituals and things surrounding nuns. For the most part, some seemed accurate, and other nuns in films seemed more fictionalized.

The Vatican hears about this and asks Father Burke from Rome to go there. He travels with Sister Irene who is in her novitiate. During this visit, Father Burke realized that this demon identified as Valak. Valak attacks Irene and possesses her. Frenchie smears some of the Blood of Christ on her face which casts out the demon. At the end of the movie, Frenchie reveals his name is Maurice. However, we see that Maurice is possessed by Valak which is shown by the inverted cross on his neck. The soundtrack in the movie was great as it set the pace and the acting was pretty solid. Sister Irene was played by Taissa Farmiga, who is known for her roles in American Horror Story as well as for being Vera’s younger sister.

This ties into The Conjuring as 20 years later, during a seminar at a college in Wakefield, Massachusetts, we see Carolyn Perron watching footage with others as the Warrens tried to exorcise Maurice, who is possessed. During the footage, we see Maurice grabbing Lorraine, and it is revealed in The Conjuring 2 that she saw visions of Ed dying. This event also is what led to the Warrens going to investigate the haunting on the Perron family property. I thought this movie could’ve been so much better if parts were more concise throughout. Parts of the film seemed a bit inconsistent. I wanted to love this, but sadly, it was only okay for me.

In this photo Janice is wearing a blue night gown. She is in the stairlift trying to escape Annabelle.
A scene from Annabelle: Creation (2017)

 

Annabelle: Creation (2017): Takes Place 1955

In this movie, a doll maker in 1943 named Samuel Mullins and his wife Ester Mullins lost their daughter named Annabelle aka Bee after she was hit by a car. 12 years later in 1955, we see this nun named Sister Charlotte and these six girls from a closing orphanage. The Mullins open their house to them. One of the girls named Janice has polio, and she is the main character in this movie. She finds a note saying “Find Me,” and does so by sneaking into a room that is supposed to be locked. This particular movie is my favorite of the Annabelle spin-offs.

The room is Annabelle’s old bedroom, and she opens the closet to reveal a strange and creepy-looking doll. Once she opens the closet door, weird and strange things start happening in the house mostly to Janice. During this time, the demon takes the form of Annabelle, saying it wants her soul. Janice tries to get away by using the stairlift, but she is thrown to the ground violently and she has to be put in a wheelchair. The demon pretends to be Sister Charlotte and throws Janice in a barn and possesses Janice. The acting in this film is great, and the fear displayed by both Janice and Linda is superb. Linda (Lulu Wilson) also plays a creepy child in Ouija: Origin of Evil.

At the end of the movie, Linda realizes that Janice isn’t the same. The demon pretending to be Annabelle kills Esther and Samuel. Janice tries to kill Linda, but Sister Charlotte saves her and locks Janice and Annabelle (the doll) in the closet. When the police come, they only find the doll and not Janice. This story was perfect.

Janice is able to escape through a hole in the closet and goes to Santa Monica to an orphanage there. She calls herself Annabelle. She is adopted by the Higgins family. 12 years after that, she comes back to her adoptive parents and murders them with her boyfriend as they were part of a Satanic cult. This tie-in at the end is a part in Annabelle when The Forms notice something is wrong and go investigate. Mia Form happens to own the Annabelle doll as it is part of her collection. This is how the movie ties into Annabelle and The Conjuring. I greatly enjoyed the story, plot, and scares. Nothing too over the top. Just the right amount of anticipation to see what happens next—an excellent film all around.

In this photo Janice aka Anabelle is seen holding the doll after she was killed. The letter A is smeared in blood on the back wall.
Annabelle aka Janice and the Annabelle doll from the Annabelle (2014).

Annabelle (2014): Takes Place 1967

So, I was extremely happy when I heard this movie came out because Annabelle the movie version looks creepier than the actual Raggedy Ann doll. The story of Annabelle is a spooky and interesting one, and I was like, “Yes, I can’t wait!”

In Santa Monica, California in 1967, John Form, a doctor, gives his wife Mia a doll. Mia collects dolls, and the doll happens to be Annabelle. That same night, they wake to hear that their next-door neighbors, The Higgins, are being murdered by their adoptive daughter Annabelle and her boyfriend. Mia gets stabbed and wants Annabelle (the doll) gone. Her reasoning is that Annabelle aka Janice held the doll before dying, and we see the blood go into Annabelle, the doll, as if the demon was repossessing the doll again.

Already, I was very disappointed with this movie. The whole satanic cult thing was overplayed, and John annoyed me so much in this movie. He dismissed his wife so much in this movie, though that tends to be a recurring theme with men and their wives in these kinds of movies

Anyway, sometime after that, they move to Pasadena, and events keep happening as Mia discovers the doll is still with them. She even sees the demon when she leaves baby Leah alone upstairs. Mia doing this annoyed me.

Because of this and the other paranormal things going on, Mia tries to get help from Father Perez who wants to get the Warrens to help, but the doll attacks him. Father Perez tells John that Annabelle wants to possess Mia’s soul. Mia makes a friend in a woman named Evelyn who lives in the building while the demon called Annabelle tries to take the Forms’ daughter Leah by using Father Perez to kidnap her.

Mia was going to jump out of the window with Annabelle. However, Evelyn takes her place and jumps out of the window instead. She says she is doing it to make up for the fact that she caused a car accident that killed her daughter Ruby. The demon and the doll disappear. Evelyn dying in place of Mia also annoyed me. I get feeling guilty, but to go out in this way for a woman you barely know? Nope. Not in my book.

At the end of the movie, we see Annabelle, the doll, being bought by a mother as a gift to her daughter Debbie. Debbie is a nursing student, the same one from the beginning of The Conjuring. This movie did not do its predecessor The Conjuring justice. It seemed almost cheap. Mia was also way too dumb in this movie. I found myself being okay with the fact that if Annabelle got her, I wouldn’t feel bad about it.

In this picture Carolyn Perron is seen holding a match to see her way down in the cellar. There are hands clapping behind her.
Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) from The Conjuring (2013).

The Conjuring (2013): Takes Place 1971

In this movie, Roger and Carolyn Perron move to a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island with their five daughters and their dog Sandie. Their daughters’ names are Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, and April. They play a game called Hide and Clap, and this leads them to the wall that was boarded up to block the cellar from being discovered. This film was the first and best one of the whole universe. It was done well—James Wan did his thing with this one.

The very first night, Sadie refuses to go in. The next morning, Sadie is found dead. After that, paranormal things start to happen. Christine sees a spirit that tells her it wants her family dead. The clocks stop at 3:07 AM every night. Birds fly into the windows and die from the impact. Spirits play the game the girls played called Hide and Clap. Andrea is attacked by a spirit the same night that Carolyn gets locked in the basement.

Carolyn goes to the Warrens at a seminar at a university. They agree to help. This is the first time we see the big role Ed and Lorraine have in this series.

We find out that Bathsheba Sherman (a relative to Mary Towne Eastey) was a witch. She killed her one-week-old child and sacrificed him to the devil. She also killed herself by hanging herself on the tree on her property at 3:07 AM in 1863. Before doing that, she cursed anyone who tried to take her land. Many murders and suicides happened on the property.

While the Warrens are gathering evidence, many things happen to the family. Cindy is taken into a wall crawlspace inside of the house by a little boy named Rory who was murdered there. Nancy gets dragged around the house, and Carolyn gets possessed after Bathsheba vomits blood into her mouth. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga were excellent in their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren. The themes of fear, skepticism, and disbelief played off of each other.

When Lorraine falls to the cellar, she realizes that Bathsheba possesses the mother of a family to kill their children. The family goes to a hotel, and then we discover Carolyn took Christine and April. Ed Warren performs an exorcism, and they were finally able to get Carolyn back and rid the family of Bathsheba. There was just enough suspense playing off the fact of real events. The scenes or jump scares were done in a way that kept you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next.

I loved this movie. I had been annoyed with paranormal-type movies for a while as they all seemed the same, but this movie was down so well. James Wan was able to capture what he did with Insidious in The Conjuring.

Annabelle Comes Home (2019): Takes Place 1972

This movie opens up with The Warrens taking Annabelle from Debbie and Camilla and putting it in their home. The doll is put in the room of artifacts. This film was a hot mess. Judy seemed to be the only character in this with some sense.

After we see this opening, we see The Warrens leaving Judy their daughter with a babysitter named Mary Ellen as they were going to investigate another case. Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela comes over uninvited, and she goes to the room of artifacts, touching everything. Mary Ellen was way too nice, and I feel her niceness was why Daniela felt she could just impose herself in the Warrens house like that. Daniela is too damn old to have to be told not to touch things that don’t belong to her. I think that irritated me the most in the movie.

Daniela is fascinated with the dead as she lost her father. During her visit to the room of artifacts, she leaves Annabelle’s case open, and all hell breaks loose. Annabelle releases other spirits such as the Ferryman and the Bride. Daniela never tells Judy or Mary Ellen she was in the room. Things start to happen. This further cemented my belief that this movie was unnecessary and ridiculous.

By the end of the movie, Judy, Mary Ellen, and Daniela finally get the doll back in the case, and the spirits rest. The next morning, they tell the Warrens what happened. During Judy’s birthday party, Lorraine gives Daniela a message from her dad that was comforting. With the ending being like this, I felt it slightly diminished how powerful Annabelle is supposed to be.

Annabelle became a side star from The Conjuring Universe, and the franchise tried to milk Annabelle for all she was worth. Where they failed with the first one, they made up for it with Annabelle: Creation. I was fine with the movie being left alone after that. We didn’t need another one. But, we got another one, and it was this abomination.

The Curse of La Llorona (2019): Takes Place 1973

This film starts in 1673 in Mexico. A family is playing together, and the youngest son gives her mom a necklace. The boy goes for a walk, and when he gets back, he sees his mother drowning his brother in a stream. He tried to run, but she catches him and drowns him too. I heard about this story some years ago in a class I took in college and loved the story so much. As part of a requirement we had to change or user icons to a fable or legend. I used it as an icon for that class the whole semester.

The legend of La Llorona, “The Weeping Woman,” is that a woman named Maria sees her husband cheating. In a fit of rage, she kills her two children. She immediately regrets this and can’t save them. Consumed by guilt, she drowns herself, but she doesn’t join her children. So, her spirit wanders near the water as she mourns her children. My excitement to see what could be done with this legend in film was at its peak when I saw The Curse of La Llorona.

In the film, 300 years later in 1973, we see Anna Tate-Garcia. She is a caseworker in Los Angeles. Anna gives a welfare check to her client Patricia Alvarez. She finds the children locked in a door. Patricia’s two sons named Carlos and Tomas tell Anna to keep them locked in the room for their safety, but she sends them to child protective services. Later they are found drowned in a stream. Patricia blames Anna and says she was trying to protect them from La Llorona.

Anna’s son Chris leaves the car and encounters La Llorona, and she burns his skin. Patricia later reveals that she prayed for La Llorona to take Anna’s children and give her son back. Patricia seeks help from Father Perez who tells her about his experience with a haunted doll which is Annabelle. Father Perez sends Anna to a man named Rafael Olvera who was a former priest. He helps her. They fight the spirit La Llorona, and Anna stabs the spirit in the chest with a cross. The spirit is destroyed. Anna thanks Rafael and sees a puddle of tears to end the movie.

I was highly disappointed. This movie felt rushed, clunky, and it didn’t have the same feel as The Conjuring. I thought this was the perfect time to get a movie with a Latin background and do it well. Sadly, this movie did not do that. It felt almost unnecessary to have in the Conjuring Universe franchise. They just didn’t get it right, in my opinion.

In this photo, Linda is sitting with Lorraine Warren on a backyward swing.
A scene from The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Conjuring 2 (2016): Takes Place 1977

This movie portrays the Enfield Poltergeist haunting a family in Enfield, London. The case was dismissed as kids playing a hoax, and according to the actual story, the Warrens weren’t as involved in this case as portrayed in the movie. James Wan was able to knock it out of the park with this sequel to The Conjuring. While it wasn’t as good as the first one, it still delivered.

The movie starts with The Warrens in the Amityville House in 1976, where Lorraine reveals that Valek the demon disguised as a nun wants to kill Ed.  In 1977, The Hodgson family starts to experience strange things after Janet plays with an Ouija board. The family and neighbors see Janet sleepwalking. The media gets involved, and it is shown that Janet is possessed by an elderly man named Bill Wilkins. Bill died in the house and wants the family out.

At some point, the Warrens are asked to consult. They consult with Anita Gregory and Maurice Grosse. During this time, they can’t see anything happening. A camera catches Janet destroying the kitchen as a prank, and the claims are dismissed. Lorraine and Ed leave, but before they can head home, Lorraine realizes that the demonic nun was using Bill as a pawn to break her will. Janet being haunted and the seemingly harmless but bitter elderly man at first makes the reveal of Valek more entertaining.

When they return, Jane is possessed, and Ed goes inside to help her. Lightning strikes a tree, making a spear-like object that is similar to the one in Lorraine’s vision where Ed is killed. Lorraine calls Valek by its name and frees Janet, keeping herself and Ed safe.

In the end, Ed brings the haunted “Crooked Man” toy that was in the Hodgson house to the artifact room. He places it near the music box from The Conjuring and Annabelle’s doll case. The movie is told in a way that makes you sympathize with Janet as well as her mom who you can see is struggling. It is an excellent sequel.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021): Takes Place 1981

This movie comes out on June 4, 2021. This movie is based on the case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who was accused of killing Alan Bono, his landlord. Ed and Lorraine Warren were called in to help his family before the killing. Arne’s fiancée younger brother was said to be possessed: during this case, the Warrens also said that Arne was also possessed. He used this as an attempt to plead not guilty. He said that he was “Not Guilty by Reason of Demonic Possession.” Of course, that plea was unsuccessful. This is the backstory for The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It, and I’m excited to see where they go with this movie.

My Favorites from Best to Worst

If I had to rate the films from best to worst, this is how I would rate them: The Conjuring, Annabelle: Creation, The Conjuring 2, The Nun, Annabelle, The Curse of La Llorona, and Annabelle Comes Home

As previously stated, I believe the very first Conjuring set a standard for the rest of the movies—the gold standard, if you will. Everything about this film was just the right amount of substance and spooky. Annabelle: Creation was the perfect creation story about a haunted doll. Annabelle stands out the most as a thing people recognize from the universe. As stated before, The Conjuring 2 was an excellent sequel. Most sequels tend to fail in captivating the audiences, but this one does not.

As for The Nun, this film could’ve been a great origin to the demon Valek. However, the parts that didn’t make sense messed it up for me. And as for the first Annabelle, The Curse of La Llorona, and Annabelle Comes Home, these were poor in comparison to the others. The stories for all of them just didn’t gel with me. I really wanted to like these movies, but I couldn’t. However, even with the fact that these failed in my eyes, I still appreciate the series overall.

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Written by Katrina

Katrina is a writer, podcaster and Youtuber who loves all things wrestling. When she isn't visiting the Thunderdome, being sarcastic or laughing at memes, she is reading a good book. She also enjoys binge watching crime shows, anime, horror movies or watching her favorite matches. Katrina writes fiction under an alias, which she credits Jeff Hardy for getting her started with her fan fictions at the age of 14. She has a YouTube channel called In Kat We Trust and a podcast called Kickin' Back with Kat.

Social Media for Instagram and Twitter: @inkatw3trust

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