In honor of this week’s release of The Curse of La Llorona, I thought it could be fun to take a look back at producer James Wan’s ever-expanding Conjuring sandbox and rank the current entires from poorest to most excellent. Perhaps in doing so we might gain a better perspective on the wildly inconsistent works within the franchise.
6.) The Nun (2018)
The Nun is a spin-off of The Conjuring 2 and features the demon Valek, the main antagonist of James Wan’s second film in the series. Only The Nun opted to take moviegoers back in time to show Valek’s origin. With Wan paying the demon so much attention, you’d be forgiven for assuming he’d had grand plans for Valek all along. In reality, James Wan didn’t have the idea of including the Nun in The Conjuring 2 until the film was already in the midst of reshoots. In other words, Valek was a last-minute addition to Warner Bros’ cinematic spooky-verse and James Wan only made such a big deal of the character because he thought it had a cool design. And that’s ultimately the source of The Nun‘s problems. It looks great and boasts a consistently creepy gothic aesthetic, but its story is laughably trackless and characters exhaustingly bland, resulting in frequent unintentional gut-busters instead of harrowing thrills.
Before James Wan fell head over habit for the Nun, the worst film in The Conjuring-verse centered around a hideous doll named Annabelle. (Seriously, why would ANYONE want to play with this thing?) The problem here is that the film is as stiff as its titular demonic play thing. The characters are flat and uninteresting and continue to make one irritatingly dumb decision after the next that, after a certain point, you kind of just fall back into your seat, eyes rolled, and feel they deserve what’s coming to them. By the end of the first act, the attempted scares hit on so many haunted house tropes that the intended thrills quickly dissipate like a translucent, floating figure in the corner of your eye. Annabelle isn’t a dumpster fire like The Nun– it’s definitely put together more competently– it’s just the most vanilla film in the Conjuring universe. Perhaps there’s something even more damning about that?
4.) The Curse of La Llorona
I would say this is where the CU takes a considerable step up and nearly in every facet of filmmaking imaginable. The Curse of La Llorona is a well shot, evenly-paced and convincingly performed supernatural thriller. Linda Cardellini gives one of the strongest performances in all the Conjuring films as a widowed social worker fending off a maternal demon looking to snatch up the souls of her two young children. It’s an harrowing tale, but one that has already been repeated in both flagship Conjuring films. There are a couple instances in particular when La Llorona seems like it’ about to take the narrative road less traveled, which would have helped it stick out from the rest of the films in the franchise; however, on both occasions director Michael Chaves opts to go the safer, more predictable route. That’s extra disappointing seeing is how James Wan hand-picked Chaves to replace him as director on The Conjuring 3. Still, The Curse of La Llorona is a step back towards the right direction after The Nun last year.
Click here for my full review of The Curse of La Llorona.
3.) The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring 2 is a worthy follow-up to James Wan’s original classic. Also directed by Wan, this film maintains the director’s singular visual style and again demonstrates his knack for scaring the pants off his audience at every chance. The second Conjuring film also maintains focus on the relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren, the heartbeat of these films. One of the ways in which I felt The Conjuring 2 improves over the original was in its character development of the family that the Warrens are trying to help relieve from demonic oppression. They’re nice people and the scenes in which they and the Warrens spend time hanging out are some of the most heartwarming moments in all of the series.
2.) Annabelle: Creation
As mentioned earlier, the first Annabelle was less than a delight, but it did well enough at the box office to justify a second spin-off featuring the most disturbing children’s toy in cinematic history. Needless to say, my eyeballs were ready to do some serious rolling as I dragged myself into the theater for Annabelle: Creation, which jumps even further back in time than Annabelle to chronicle the possessed doll’s earliest days tormenting unsuspecting foster children. Among them Bee and Linda, who are impressively portrayed by Samara Lee and rising star Lulu Wilson. As with the two main Conjuring titles, Annabelle: Creation hugely benefits from the strong bond the two girls share in the face of such great evil. Then there’s David F. Sandberg, who displays the strongest directorial effort in the franchise, second only to James Wan himself. He zig-zags with pin-point precision between tender character moments and some of the most petrifying frights of the 2010’s. Sandberg’s work is even more staggering considering Annabelle: Creation is only his second feature film. The Conjuring universe would be lucky indeed to have him return.
Click here to check out my full review of Annabelle: Creation.
1.) The Conjuring
Was there honestly ever any doubt? James Wan’s The Conjuring is a modern horror classic. It’s so good in fact that none of the other films on this list would exist had the OG not appealed to as many brave moviegoers as it did. And I do mean “brave.” The Conjuring is one of the scariest films of the decade. Thanks to James Wan’s signature subversion of typical genre tropes, you never quite know where the next scare is going to come from. When it does inevitably hit, it’s all the more effective because Wan knows how to utilize the tricks of his trade in order to foster and sustain an atmosphere of pure unease that steadily overtakes the viewer while his film deliberately steers towards its wild conclusion. On top of all that, The Conjuring is emotionally anchored in its two lovable protagonists, paranormal investigators and married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, and its two wonderful leading performances from Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Watching their heartening partnership strengthen as they take on whatever new demonic presence comes their way adds yet another complex layer to the wholly satisfying experience that is The Conjuring.
There you have it, all six of the current Conjuring universe films ranked from worst to best! What do you think about my ranking? Do you agree? How would you rank them yourself? Float down to the comments section below and manifest your personal ranking of the Conjuring universe films! I’d love to hear from you!