The Conjuring Universe: Ranking Every Film So Far
The Conjuring Universe is a rapidly growing franchise that has served up some classic horror fare and some not so spooky misfires since it’s 2013 debut. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star as Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators and authors associated with prominent cases of haunting. The Conjuring Universe consists of two main features following Ed and Lorraine and four spin-off films that investigate the origins of some of the demons, dolls and general Big Bad’s the couple have encountered. The latest installment, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It has been released this week so the list must be updated. It’s time to re-explore the dark hallways of The Conjuring Universe.
8. The Nun (2018, dir. Hardy)
What the hell was this film meant to be? The Nun-juring is a real low point of the franchise for me with more accidental laughs than purposeful scares. This film is a perfect example of when a trailer ruins the best moments. The few scares that may have been successful were shown in the trailer and this led to a big disappointment at the cinema. I will give it credit for its beautiful production design, the locations are stunning and very reminiscent of Hammer Horror. Unfortunately, the plot of the film just didn’t live up to its environment. Valak deserved better.
7. Annabelle (2014, dir. Leonetti)
Well, it’s no longer the worst Conjuring Universe film at least, but there is very little else redeemable about this film. It seemed a perfect idea to follow up The Conjuring with a prequel about the curiously creepy doll that is trapped in a glass cage in the Warren’s basement. What we ended up with was a mess of cults, attempted generic jump scares and a bland family that didn’t manage to get audiences rallying behind them.
6. Curse of La Llorona (2019, dir. Chaves)
The recent offering to The Conjuring Universe may seem like just a jump scare factory to some, but I definitely enjoyed my time in the cinema watching this one. Yes, it’s clichéd. Yes, there are some character issues, and Goddamn there is so much unnecessary exposition that this could have been a short film without it! Yet, the tale of The Weeping Woman was beautifully done in many ways with some great visuals. Sometimes a traditional, slightly played out, jump scare parade is just what a horror fan needs. Not perfect but a welcome addition to the family.
5. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021, dir. Chaves)
Director Michael Chaves returns to The Conjuring Universe and ups the ante from his previous installment The Curse of La Llorona. It is based on another real life case investigated by the Warrens in which a man pleads not guilty to murder due to demonic possession, a first in the American court system. This is a new branch for the Conjuring Universe and moves the franchise away from the haunted house cliché and into more of a procedural investigation with some supernatural spice. It may not be the strongest entry but it still manages to give us the jump scares we expect and explores the pure love between the Warrens which has become one of the biggest selling points of the franchise anyway.
4. Annabelle Comes Home (2019, dir. Dauberman)
Welcome back Warren family! Annabelle Comes Home is a good bridge between the spin-off films and the original Conjuring Universe and for the most part it really holds up. From just seeing the trailer I was intrigued to find out what was lurking in the Warren’s basement and how those horrors were going to be brought to life. The cast worked so well in this film with our three main characters being well fleshed out and little Judy Warren bringing the fear to the screen. This is an ensemble demon film and between the bloody bride, the ferryman and the Annabelle Demon there something to scare everyone.
3. The Conjuring 2 (2016, dir. Wan)
The Conjuring 2 was a brilliant follow up to the original creator. The Warrens make a trip to England and investigate The Enfield Poltergeist, a famous case that still has a dark cloud of controversy surrounding it. This film really revels in its dark origins and introduces a truly unnerving demon, Valak, whose multiple forms in this film are simply terrifying. The Crooked Man was a towering dose of nightmare fuel and it gave us one of the most chilling scenes of the franchise.
This is an amazing film overall, but there is a BBC version of story called The Enfield Haunting that is simply vastly superior. Unfortunately, that meant I was already a little bit expectant on this one and my standards were just a little higher. I take nothing away from this film but I highly recommend checking out The Enfield Haunting.
2. Annabelle Creation (2017, dir. Sandberg)
Annabelle gets it right the second time around. This is the origin film that she deserves as such an integral part of The Conjuring Universe. The backstory is much tighter and more in keeping with the franchise as a whole. There are some brilliantly orchestrated scares in this prequel-sequel, one of which I will touch on later. Honestly the scenes with the stairlift are worryingly tense and executed perfectly for a prolonged scare. It still manages to link itself back to Annabelle but it definitely breathes new life into the possessed porcelain doll.
“Storytime: When we went to the cinema to see this film there was a couple in front of us, clearly on a midweek date. The woman was not as big a fan of horror as her partner, this was clear from the moment the lights dimmed. Part way through the film the man lent over to her and whispered “I need to go to the toilet, but I’ll wait until it’s a light scene.”. Smart man. Sound logic. Not in this film though. He left during the daytime barn scene, hands down one of the biggest jump scare scenes I’ve witnessed in a long time. Suffice to say, his date was white-knuckling the arms rests when he returned. I have complete sympathy for this poor woman, but it was bloody hilarious.”
1. The Conjuring (2013, dir. Wan)
The original, the big daddy that started this whole universe rolling is still the best it has offered. Of course, the original of anything is always going to hold a special place in the hearts of its audience, but this truly was a brilliant film. This is a true love letter to classic gothic horror and moved the genre away from the torture porn trend that had been defining it for a while. From the simplicity of the hide and clap scare and the perfect timing of the wardrobe demon this film really hits the horror mark. It might get a little bit, love saves the day, in the end, but it is still a great atmospheric horror with scares, lore and some great performances.
The Universe Expands
The Conjuring Universe shows no sign of slowing down either with two more films on the cards already, The Nun 2 and The Crooked Man, neither has a release date yet so I just hope they don’t get stuck in production purgatory. As you can tell from this list I hold very little affection for The Nun so I’m slightly worried about this one. Is the second Nun movie going to pull a full Annabelle Creation? It could surprise me and learn from the mistakes of its predecessor. Is The Crooked Man going to live up to my nightmare filled expectations? My big worry with this one is that he was almost thrown away as just being one of Valak’s many forms in The Conjuring 2. This could lead to some stale repetition in the franchise and I would much rather see them do something original and unique with such an imposing character.
Outside of the film universe DC Comics has also launched a series of comics set in The Conjuring Universe. The first limited series is The Conjuring: The Lover which is a prequel to the latest film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and the next few entries seem to be focussing on different cursed objects in the amazing Warren’s basement of doom. There’s still plenty of stories and characters to explore but for now, it is a lot of speculation and the occasional tight lipped leak from an actor of producer. I’m hopeful and excited to see the continuation of this rapidly expanding universe. Keep me posted Wan!