At the time of writing The Conjuring Universe has firmly established itself in the horror genre scene and James Wan et al have created a world of scares and delights across eight feature films. Arguably one of those features, The Curse of La Llorana has been demoted from the universe by its director Michael Chaves.
I feel like I’d like to argue this point as it clearly is connected with Annabelle, mainly due to the presence of Father Perez, but if we are to take this as gospel, then we can put it to one side for the purpose of this article which is to look at trilogies when adopting the Surgeons theory of what makes a good sequel as outlined by Antony Yee in his article, Movie review: A Quiet Place Part II.

To recap, here is the criteria that we believe marks a decent sequel:

  1. Identify the ideas, themes & executional elements that make the first film great.  Or at least good.  Or at least worthy of being sequelised.
  2. Pay homage and do not violate/ignore said ideas and themes and elements.
  3. Introduce new/expanded themes, ideas and elements that will NATURALLY ALIGN to your first ideas, themes & elements.  (Ie: Don’t use your second movie to discredit & contradict your first).
  4. To underline point 3 – DO NOT rehash the first film and just give people “more of the same”.
  5. DO NOT-NOT rehash the first film by giving more of the same…. BUT “BIGGER”.
  6. Be a good enough stand-alone film by itself.

The reason I am drawn to this in the realms of The Conjuring Universe, there is in effect two sets of trilogies at play, if we were to also put The Nun to one side.It’s yet to be seen if The Nun will establish a trilogy in its own right. There’s the Ed and Lorraine Warren Conjuring trilogy and the Annabelle trilogy, which is slightly more complex to scrutinise as it contains a prequel in the mix.

So let’s start by looking at the initial Conjuring trilogy which focuses on the paranormal investigations of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) starting with…

The Conjuring 2

  1. Does it identify the ideas, themes and executional elements from The Conjuring?
    Here it definitely does, Not only it incorporates the central characters Ed and Warren but similarly places them in another paranormal investigation centred on a family under duress from a spiritual entity that threatens them physically and mentally.
  1. Does it pay homage to the original in the process?
    Once again, yes, and centralises on the core elements that were set up in the first feature, establishing the key themes and ideas, and not demolishing them in any way. This is in large part due to James Wan taking the helm as director and in doing so, firmly establishes the look and feel of the movies through clever trickery of shadows and light to build up the tension.
  1. Introducing new ideas.
    The biggest component that comes into this movie is the expansion of the spiritual encounters with not just one paranormal entity but three. It’s main antagonist appears to be Bill Wilkins, but is also supported by The Crooked Man, and most notably Valak. A fearful entity that was so striking that launched a spin-off film of its own.
    In addition, Ed and Lorraine’s roles are provided some more depth and centres on their relationship to one another which I felt was a nice touch and gave both Farmiga and Wilson more to play with respectively.
  2. Is it a re-hash?
    This is a tricky one because in many ways it is a bit same-same. Same investigators, Similar poverty stricken family under distress. The shift in location to the UK does disguise this element and because of the question around the genuine haunts that were aimed at the Enfield Haunting, it adds an extra component, but effectively, it doesn’t stray too much from the original notes.
  3. More of the same but bigger?
    Which is why unfortunately it falls short and three spirits instead of one element makes it exactly that. A bigger premise from the first. 
  1. Does it stand alone as a film?
    100% yes. You don’t need to have watched the first film and the elements that are played with are strong enough to establish its own identity. For this, it is a worthy follow up and rightfully exists within the universe.

SCORE: 4/6
It’s a decent effort and a strong film but without the added depth to the Warrens and the introduction of Valak, the film treads a very similar path to its predecessor.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

  1. Does it identify the ideas, themes and executional elements from The Conjuring?
    This film starts to feel like a different beast, which makes sense when the change of director comes into effect with Michael Chaves taking the helm. While the core ideas and elements are in place especially with the exorcism introduction, its style and execution is different.
  1. Does it pay homage to the original in the process?
    These ideas are not ignored but play a more secondary role due to the change in approach to the storytelling.
  2. Introducing new ideas.
    The expansion of the story comes through the further development of the Warren’s relationship, but central to this is Lorraine’s gift of sight into the other world and her connection with another gifted person.
    The main change centres more as an investigation on said exorcism and how powers outside of the mainframe such as the judicial period weighs in on and impacts the perspective of the universe.
  1. Is it a re-hash?
    Definitely not. If anything, I applaud the approach of trying something different with the story direction, even if it does miss a few beats away from the original look and feel in doing so.
  2. More of the same but bigger?
    Conjuring 3
    feels bold in taking the franchise in a different direction as it steps away from the formula that was set up by the first two movies. It’s both its benefit and detriment. 
  3. Does it stand alone as a film?
    It does stand alone to a degree. Especially as the story holds up through style and substance. What it does well is use the investigation and turns in on itself, questioning the paranormal inquiry process, which feels refreshing and plays with the black and white, the yin and yang of paranormal experiences.

SCORE: 4/6
This instalment does well to make an identity of its own and for trying something different but in the process takes a lot away from what drew us to the original and what made that movie so good to begin with.
With the introduction of Annabelle as a spin-off franchise, it generated enough success at the box office for the producers to look at its own trilogy of movies, despite it not being anywhere near as good as The Conjuring. So how does the Annabelle trilogy square up under scrutiny.

Annabelle: Creation

  1. Does it identify the ideas, themes and executional elements from Annabelle?
    This is more of a strange one as Annabelle: Creation did one of two things. Firstly, it chose to go to the genesis of Annabelle’s fruition allowing a way to create rules of its own and improve upon the original film. Secondly, It focused on the core elements of what makes a possessed doll so scary, and reinvents the concept.
  2. Does it pay homage to the original in the process?
    If anything, this film pays homage to the initial component that Annabelle was introduced from The Conjuring film. This feels more in keeping with the Conjuring universe than its predecessor.
  1. Introducing new ideas.
    The new ideas are discussed above in point 1, and expands on the possession route. It also strands our would-be victims in the middle of nowhere rather than a suburban environment like in the original. This helps to amplify the feeling of helplessness.
    Much like The Conjuring 2, it also adds a few other elements in the mix; a scarecrow, and parents hellbent on doing anything to bring their daughter back to them.
  1. Is it a re-hash?
    No. It feels more like a reinvention and more of a revamp than a rehash.
  1. More of the same but bigger?
    This is a very different movie and is all the more better for it. David Sandberg does a great job of breathing new life into this franchise, and what’s more does the impossible by making a movie that is better than its predecessor.
  1. Does it stand alone as a film?
    100%. This film adds some great moments that help it stand alone as a movie, injected with humour and new ways to scare the audience.

SCORE: 4/6
Annabelle: Creation marks a bold entry into the universe and reinvents the Annabelle franchise. It was a bold approach but executed really well to become a better movie as a result. Off the top of my head, only Ouija: Origin of Evil has been able to do something similar. 

Annabelle Comes Home

  1. Does it identify the ideas, themes and executional elements from Annabelle?
    Another interesting element comes into play here as this movie also tries for a different approach, making it about the haunted house / possession mixed with a teen horror component rather than the more adult based horror.
    It also uses both Annabelle and The Conjuring elements together and for that feels like the most balanced movie in the universe.
  2. Does it pay homage to the original in the process?
    Taking the notion that Annabelle: Creation is the main rule setter when it comes to Annabelle, this film definitely does pay homage to that film rather than the original film. But like I have stated. This film blends nicely into the Conjuring universe so pulls a lot from all the movies that have taken place before it.
  3. Introducing new ideas.
    The teen horror element marks this as a very different film in tone, whilst still in keeping with the Conjuring universe. It nicely plays with the idea of how Annabelle can harbour her power and force this onto weak or vulnerable people. It’s a simple premise but effective in this case.
  1. Is it a re-hash?
    Yes. But like Creation actually works to its advantage and provides the notion of each film having its own style and identity.
  1. More of the same but bigger?
    With the change in direction and style comes a film that is part of the universe but provides some of its own rules along the way. 
  1. Does it stand alone as a film?
    This film does stand alone, but also relies on flashbacks of the first film to cement it in the universe. This does prevent it from standing on its own entirely but the vision and narrative is strong enough to allow the film to have an identity of its own.

SCORE: 3/6
Seems a little unfair to mark it down but if we’re playing by the rules of how it relates to the original Annabelle film then it suffers.
It is a far superior film from the first film though and as part of the Conjuring universe more than holds its own.

  • Saul Muerte

How Annabelle and the Conjuring universe is connected to the Manson family murders