The 2013 horror movie The Conjuring opened with the story of a doll named Annabelle, who’d terrorized three young women. Ed and Lorraine Warren, based on the real-life paranormal investigators, helped them seal away the doll’s evil, then locked it in a cabinet in their home. Now we have not just an Annabelle spin-off film, but also Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to that spin-off. And according to GameSpot’s Annabelle: Creation review, it’s pretty good.
Between The Conjuring 1 and 2, the Annabelle films, and the upcoming The Nun and The Crooked Man, we’ve got a new connected film universe with director and producer James Wan pulling the strings. Annabelle: Creation is out today in theaters, and to fully enjoy it, it’s important to know how they all fit together.
At the center are the Warrens, played by the excellent Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The characters work with the Catholic church to assist families whose homes have been invaded by demons. These invasions range from Poltergeist-like household phenomena–such as lights flicking on and off, or strange noises–to, in extreme cases, full-on demonic possession. That’s what we saw in The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, as the Warrens helped families in the US and England, at great personal cost to their own health and sanity.
But while the Warrens star in the Conjuring movies, the Wan-iverse has expanded beyond Wilson and Farmiga’s characters.
The story of Annabelle
The first spin-off, 2014’s Annabelle, offered an origin story of sorts for the titular doll. Annabelle had previously appeared only in a few brief scenes in The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, mostly locked in a display case. The Annabelle spin-off showed that the doll became a conduit for evil forces after a satanic cultist died while holding it in her arms, her blood dripping into its creepy eye socket.
In the films’ canon, Annabelle itself isn’t really the possessed. The Warrens explain that it’s simply a conduit for demons, who use it to manipulate and terrorize their victims.
Annabelle: Creation, which might be the only good prequel to a spin-off ever made, goes back even further in the doll’s history and shows its true origin.
The Annabelle doll was created by a dollmaker named Mr. Mullin. In the movie’s opening scene, he crafts the first Annabelle doll and numbers it 1 out of 100, which explains why the doll’s been referred to as a rare collector’s item in the films.
Shortly after he creates the Annabelle doll, Mullins’ young daughter dies tragically. Without spoiling anything in the new Annabelle movie, let it suffice to say she doesn’t stay gone for long. Annabelle: Creation’s ending ties a nice little bow on, providing a clear connection between both Annabelle movies.
The Nun and The Crooked Man
The Conjuring 3 is in the works, although we know little about it at this point. Before we rejoin the Warrens for another ghost-hunt, we’ll learn more about The Nun, who first appeared in The Conjuring 2 and has a neat cameo in Annabelle: Creation.
The Nun terrorized Vera Farmiga’s character, Lorraine Warren, throughout The Conjuring 2. Lorraine seemed to be particularly affected by the habit-wearing demon, implying she might have some personal connection with it. To add fuel to that, the actress’s sister, Taissa Farmiga, is starring in the spin-off. And in Annabelle: Creation, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and Mr. Mullins see the Nun briefly appear in an old photo, though they don’t seem to quite grasp what they’re glimpsing.
So it seems The Nun may have concrete connections with other characters in the Wan-iverse. The spin-off is currently in post-production, James Wan recently told Entertainment Weekly, and The Nun’s release date is currently set for 2018.
After that, it’s on to The Crooked Man, another ghoul who first appeared in The Conjuring 2. The Crooked Man is based on a children’s rhyme:
"There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile / He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile / He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse / And they all lived together in a little crooked house."
In The Conjuring 2, the Crooked Man leapt from a child’s zoetrope to scare the crap out of an English family. He even impersonated a dog, implying that he can twist his weird body into various shapes.
The Crooked Man’s release date isn’t set yet, as the film is still in its early stages. But Wan told EW that he thinks the fourth Conjuring spin-off will be "somewhat of that dark fairytale, and more whimsical, subgenre."
"What we want to do, with The Conjuring universe, is we want each of our little offshoots to have a very different flavor…I love the idea that, within the Conjuring universe, each of our little movies all have their own flavor, so that way they don’t feel like they’re the same films," Wan said.
Having launched not just the Conjuring universe, but the Saw and Insidious franchises as well, Wan is officially a master of modern horror. Needless to say, fans are looking forward to whatever comes next in the Wan-iverse.