With nearly $650 million dollars in box office receipts, The Conjuring Universe is an unqualified success. Outside of Marvel, James Wan and company have accomplished something pretty noteworthy. The fact that this is a horror universe just makes its success even sweeter for genre fans. Yes, critical reaction to the movies have varied widely. Nonetheless, the series has largely scared and entertained in equal measures. With the release of The Conjuring The Devil Made Me Do It now in theatres, the franchise has eight movies under its belt. Though box office receipts may ultimately dictate what happens next, The Devil Made Me Do It could be the last entry. So what better time than now to take stock of The Conjuring Universe. Where does your favourite movie rank?
8 – Annabelle (2014)
The first spin-off movie in The Conjuring Universe, Annabelle, is probably the only genuinely bad movie in the series. It’s utterly generic and unimaginative horror movie. Nothing in this prequel approaches the scares and tension The Conjuring achieved in its 10 minutes with the ‘Annabelle’ character. Honestly, you’ll probably forget everything you’ve seen 10 minutes after the movie ends. Director John R Leonetti’s credits include Wolves at the Door, Wish Upon, and … yes … Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. That explains a lot.
7 – The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
To be fair, it was a toss-up between The Curse of La Llorona and The Nun for this position. Neither movie is nearly as bad as their ‘Tomatometer’s’ would suggest. And both movies suffer from similar problems. The Curse of La Llorona relies too heavily on generic jump scares. There’s not much in the way of atmosphere or sustained tension. But what distinguishes it from the other movies higher on this list is the lack of compelling characters. Despite casting a great actress in Linda Cardellini, La Llorona’s family drama feels forced. Moreover, La Llorona has the most tenuous connection to The Conjuring universe. In fact, the studio downplayed any connection until a month before its release.
6 – The Nun (2018)
Though it suffers from the same problems as The Curse of La Llorona, The Nun does a few things a little better. Things could have been very different. The Nun starts off with some nice Gothic atmosphere, giving off a bit of a Hammer Films vibe. But the spin-off trades in the rich atmosphere for a steady stream of of loud jump scares. And the climax is overstuffed. Nevertheless, Tessa Farmiga is fantastic and the titular ‘Nun’ is still terrifying, even if her movie falls a little on the dumb side.
5 – Annabelle Comes Homes (2019)
Sooner or later, every franchises starts to show some cracks. On the one hand, Annabelle Comes Home is still better than the first Annabelle movie. Director Gary Dauberman builds in plenty of the jump scares and mounting suspense you expect from the series. Additionally, setting the movie around the Warren’s artifact room allows Dauberman to draw in other creepy characters and mythologies. Similar to the best movies on the list, Annabelle Comes Home also builds its scares around likeable characters with at least one satisfying character arc. Unfortunately, Annabelle Comes Home also can’t help but feel a bit like a highlight reel, recycling scares that have worked in the past. Regardless, The Conjuring Universe’s seventh entry is still fun popcorn horror.
4 – The Conjuring The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)
With La Llarona’s Michael Chaves replacing James Wan behind the camera, The Conjuring The Devil Made Me Do It clearly underwhelms compared to the first two movies. Following an intense opening exorcism scene, The Devil Made Me Do It somewhat deviates from the formula that worked so well, taking the Warrens on a road trip to investigate a curse. Of course, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are as engaging as always playing Lorraine and Ed Warren. Moreover, Chaves paces his scares well, ensuring the sequel is never boring. And while it’s still a scary movie, the lack of a memorable demonic presence hurts. Bottom line, The Devil Made Me Do It is a fun horror movie, but a good indicator that the franchise has run its course.
3 – Annabelle Creation (2017)
Now here’s the origin story Annabelle deserved. No, it’s not a perfect movie. Things get a little busy near the end of the movie. At times, Annabelle Creation relies a little too much on ‘loud noises’ for scares. Nonetheless, the prequel has fittingly tragic origin with solid performances from veterans Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto and its young stars. Director David F Sandberg (Lights Out) shows why he’s an up-and-coming filmmaker in the genre. Most importantly, Annabelle Creation is well-paced, scary movie that dovetails nicely into the inferior Annabelle.
2 – The Conjuring 2 (2016)
If The Conjuring 2 falls short of the original movie, it’s to for lack of trying. James Wan was back behind the camera with Vera Farmiga an Patrick Wilson reprising their roles as the Warren’s. Based on the Enfield Haunting, The Conjuring 2 has several fantastic scares built around ‘The Crooked Man’. A bedroom scene, a cool trick with a television, and a child’s hallway tent are just a few of the cleverly executed jump scares. Wan and company even set up spin-off prequel, The Nun, without making the movie feel cluttered. But where The Conjuring 2 works betters than most sequels is the relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren. Both Farmiga and Wilson give the sequel an emotional core not found in most horror movies.
1 – The Conjuring (2013)
This ranking doesn’t need much explanation. The Conjuring is one of the best horror movies released in the last 20 years. Undoubtedly, it’s destined to be a genre classic. The ‘clapping game’ is one of the most effective and inventive jump scares put on screen. And it’s certainly not the only scare in the movie. Wan expertly milks his chills for maximum suspense. Everything is built around a compelling family drama anchored by outstanding performances from Farmiga and Wilson. The Conjuring deserves to be mentioned alongside ‘haunted house’ classics like The Haunting, The Amityville Horror, and Poltergeist.