Things go bump in the night frequently in “The Conjuring” universe, namely thanks to folks like the Crooked Man, the Nun and that creepy Annabelle – and, unfortunately for the ghostbusting couple at the heart of the movie series, they’re all hauntingly connected.
Headed up by James Wan, “The Conjuring” films have become a horror version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with spinoffs, characters who cross over between movies, and a couple of primary do-gooders in real-life paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren.
The latest chapter is the third main “Conjuring” movie, “The Devil Made Me Do It.” Directed by Michael Chaves, the thriller features the Warrens tackling a 1981 case involving a body-hopping dark spirit and the first time in U.S. court history that demonic possession was used as a murder defense.
Fact-check: How much of ‘The Conjuring’ craziness is based on real life? (A lot)
Lorraine Warren (center, with Keith Arthur Bolden and Patrick Wilson) conducts a psychic investigation in the horror film "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It." (Photo: WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT)
These fright fests – which, interestingly, lean very female in terms of protagonists and antagonists – scare up decent box office, too: Four of the eight movies so far have topped $100 million. Of course there’s more to come, with a sequel to “The Nun” in development as is a spinoff with “Conjuring 2” creeper Crooked Man.
To mark the release of the latest, here are all the “Conjuring” movies, ranked from worst to best:
Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is haunted by the demonic nun Valak (Bonnie Aarons) in the "Conjuring" spinoff "The Nun." (Photo: COS AELENI/WARNER BROS.)
8. ‘The Nun’ (2018)
The 1950s-set prequel is an early story of Valak (Bonnie Aarons), the demon nun that stalks Lorraine in “The Conjuring 2,” and the priest (Demian Bichir) and the young novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) who encounter her while investigating a suicide at a Romanian abbey. There are hints of religious mystery and old-school adventure, but it’s a mostly dull and arduous entry that totally wastes Aarons’ chilling villainess of the cloth.
‘The Nun’: Why there’s creepy appeal in unholy horror
Father Perez (Tony Amendola) has a serious doll problem to deal with in "Annabelle." (Photo: GREGORY SMITH/WARNER BROS.)
7. ‘Annabelle’ (2014)
On paper, it draws some “Rosemary’s Baby” comparisons with a pregnant woman battling a malevolent force and the involvement of a devil-worshipping cult. If only it held a candle to that classic: The first “Annabelle” sics the evil doll on a young couple (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) and their baby in 1967, with Father Perez (Tony Amendola) stepping in to try and exorcise the porcelain menace, yet this is a clichéd disappointment rather than good unholy terror.
Marisol Ramirez plays the malevolent title spirit of "The Curse of La Llorona." (Photo: SCOTT PATRICK GREEN)
6. ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ (2019)
Its connection to the rest of the “Conjuring” saga is glancing, with a cameo from Amendola’s Perez (and a flashback-y glimpse of Annabelle), and overall the film is a so-so tale of a widow (Linda Cardellini) and her kids beset by a supernatural entity. It’s a shame because “La Llorona” mines Mexican folklore to unleash a ghostly weeping woman in a wedding dress (Marisol Ramirez), whose terrifying look and sinister intentions rank right up there with the franchise’s best baddies (or worst, as the case may be).
Lulu Wilson stars as an orphan girl who learns that stuff goes bad when a certain doll is around in the 1950s-set "Annabelle: Creation." (Photo: WARNER BROS.)
5. ‘Annabelle: Creation’ (2017)
The possessed plaything gets an origin story here, as we go back to the ‘50s with a dose of childhood tragedy and some young scream queens (or is it princesses?). Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson are orphan girls who come to live in a house where Annabelle’s taken up residence, which means a lot of sleepless nights for everyone involved. “Creation” offers a few decent scares but mainly a lot of familiar tropes in a forgettable package.
After a run-in with an evil spirit, Arne (Ruairi O'Connor) commits murder and his best defense is demon possession in "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It." (Photo: BEN ROTHSTEIN)
4. ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ (2021)
On one hand, the third “Conjuring” tries too hard to break out of the haunted-house mold with a detective thriller featuring the Warrens seeking evidence to help Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) after he murdered his landlord while possessed by a spirit. But there are enough frightful moments (including the most evil waterbed of all time) and “Devil” intriguingly explores the heavy cost on the Warrens’ physical and mental wellbeing as heroes in this supernatural space.
Review: ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ ventures too far from franchise’s freaky norm
Madison Iseman (from left), Katie Sarife and Mckenna Grace star as youngsters dealing with a house of horrors in "Annabelle Comes Home." (Photo: JUSTIN LUBIN)
3. ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ (2019)
Third time’s the occult charm: The doll’s new disco-era flick features the Warren family but puts the focus on young daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace). She has a bit of her mom’s innate sense for the otherworldly, which helps when the kid and her babysitters (Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife) have to survive one crazy night: Annabelle is inadvertently taken out of her case and lets loose the evils of the artifact room, including a hellhound and the frightening Ferryman. It’s the funniest of the “Conjuring” series and an ode to ‘70s and ‘80s teen horror flicks.
The real ‘Annabelle Comes Home’: What was Judy Warren’s life actually like?
Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) investigates a freaky music box in director James Wan's "The Conjuring." (Photo: MICHAEL TACKETT/WARNER BROS.)
2. ‘The Conjuring’ (2013)
When the first “Conjuring” hit, it was like a breath of cold, musty, goosebump-inducing air – in a good way! The Warrens are called to a cursed Rhode Island farmhouse to dig into the supernatural goings-on that are creating a regular nightmare for the resident family. Wan does wonders with camera angles, panning shots, sound effects and other old-school techniques to create an unnerving atmosphere, balanced by the uplifting, grounded personalities of Ed and especially Lorraine.
Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson, right) tries to helped the possessed Janet (Madison Wolfe) in "The Conjuring 2." (Photo: WARNER BROS.)
1. ‘The Conjuring 2’ (2016)
Usually the main “Conjuring” movies are quite good – especially compared to the spinoffs – but No. 2 rules by tapping a religious vein similar to the original “The Exorcist.” The sequel mines two real Warren cases, the infamous Amityville Horror and the Enfield Poltergeist, and the latter gives rise to the main plot of a possessed 11-year-old girl (Madison Wolfe). Freakier than the first film, “The Conjuring 2” turns “This Old Man” into a whistled theme of impending doom as one of its many ghoulish delights.
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