How The Conjuring Became The Marvel Universe Of Horror

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.
With the box-office success of The Nun, Blumhouse's Conjuring franchise has hit a new high. According to Forbes, the paranormal-exploring series is officially the biggest R-rated horror franchise ever. However, it's more than major box-office dollars that makes The Conjuring such a big deal: It has also created an entire expanded universe in which ghosts are real, demons are a problem, and paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are here to deal with all of it.
The term "cinematic universe" is often used to describe Marvel's 10-year superhero franchise, but clearly, it's not just Iron Man and friends whose adventures exist as part of one larger story. The Conjuring franchise — which is loosely based on the stories of the very real Lorraine and Ed — has created a macabre universe all its own. Now, every film released under the Conjuring banner is considered a new chapter of one very creepy tale.
Just as the post-credit sequence of a Marvel movie proves that each chapter connects to the next, the films within The Conjuring franchise includes oodles of tie-ins to the established players and pieces of the franchise's universe. (And, yes: They're often seriously frightening.)
Of course, since the Conjuring franchise tends to release a new film every six months or so, it can be hard to keep track of exactly how each movie ties in to the others. With the release of spin-off The Nun, the Conjuring's expanded universe has gotten even more complicated — but, fortunately, we've created a guide to help you out.
Click through to read about how every Conjuring movie is related to the next.
1 of 5
The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring — which is based on the real files of Ed and Lorraine Warren — follows the married couple as they investigate the 1971 haunting of the Perron family in their Rhode Island home, per the request of matriarch Carolyn (Lili Taylor, serving up great haunted characters since her turn in The Haunting).

As expected, the Perron house is super haunted, in this case by the spirit of a Satanist and witch named Bathsheba Sherman. But though the film is mostly about the Perron haunting, it's the beginning of The Conjuring that you really need to remember for future films.

During the opening scene, the Warrens recall one of their previous investigations — into a haunted doll named Annabelle. As the pair explain, the doll was once owned by two roommates, who contacted the Warrens when they came to believe the toy hosted an evil presence.

Fun fact for horror aficionados: The real doll upon which Annabelle is based was previously on display in The Warrens' Occult Museum in Connecticut. The museum, which is also featured in The Conjuring as the place where the Warrens keep the possessed doll, is currently seeking a new location for its haunted artifacts.
2 of 5
Annabelle (2014)

The first of the two Annabelle films tells the story of what came before the Warrens took the terrifying dolly to their museum. Set in the '60s (and no doubt inspired by the Manson Family), this fictionalized version of Annabelle's origin story reveals that the doll was on the scene when a young cultist murdered her suburbanite parents. That woman's name? Annabelle Higgins (Tree O'Toole), the very same name that one-time owners of the doll claimed was the moniker of the spirit inhabiting it.

Keep this story in mind, because another film in the Conjuring universe retroactively provides jaw-dropping context for Annabelle's murder spree.
3 of 5
The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Conjuring 2 is based on the Enfield Haunting, in which the Hodgson family was allegedly haunted by a poltergeist. The events of this movie play out similarly to the first, in that the Warrens attempt to rid the spirit haunting the home. However, along the way, Lorraine has visions of a demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons) whom she learns is named "Valak."

It's this demon-in-a-habit that is the main antagonist in 2018's The Nun, though it wasn't always supposed to be this way: This particular version of Valak was only introduced into the franchise during reshoots, mere months before The Conjuring 2 hit theaters.

This sequel also provides fodder for another potential addition to this horror universe. In June of 2017, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that a film based on the "Crooked Man" — a ghostly spirit living in the Enfield house — is in the works with a writer attached to the project.
4 of 5
Annabelle: Creation (2017)

This sequel to the 2014 movie is actually a prequel that provides a much richer backstory to how the doll came to be so very haunted, and it all begins at a makeshift orphanage for young girls. The couple that provides the land for said orphanage lost their own daughter — Annabelle — years earlier in a tragic accident, and, in an effort to end their grief, attempted to place Annabelle's soul into her favorite doll.

Unfortunately for the grieving parents, and everyone who came into contact with the doll later in the franchise, a demon posing as sweet Annabelle entered the doll instead.

Eventually, the demon pretending to be Annabelle takes on a new host: Janice (Talitha Bateman), a longtime resident of the orphanage who is unable to walk after a battle with polio.

Annabelle: Creation is unique to the franchise as, in this case, the demonic presence is not squashed. In fact, there's really no happy ending at all: Just more tragedy ahead.

At the end of the movie, everyone presumes that the missing Janice is dead, but in actuality, she escapes the orphanage and winds up getting adopted by the Higgins couple — the very couple who was murdered by their own daughter in 2014's Annabelle. The possessed child proclaims that her name is really that of the doll, which she, of course, brings with her to her new home.

There's also one more connection within Annabelle: Creation. Demonic nun Valak is also teased when Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) shows a photograph of several nuns from a convent in Romania. The picture includes an image of Valak in a habit — and Sister Charlotte has no idea who she is.
5 of 5
The Nun (2018)

The most recent film in The Conjuring universe connects to The Conjuring 2, as Lorraine sees multiple visions of the demon Valak while attempting to cleanse the Enfield house. However, The Nun — which is technically the very first film in the franchise's timeline, taking place in 1952 — also connects to the original Conjuring movie.

At the end of The Nun, after Valak is seemingly "defeated," character Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) is revealed to have become inadvertently possessed by the demon. Flashforward to 1971 — and a moment we saw in the very first Conjuring — and we realize that Maurice was "exorcised" by the Warrens, sometime between the events of The Nun and The Conjuring. He appears in a video of an exorcism, which the Warrens show to a college class. Carolyn Perron (Taylor), who hires the Warrens to rid her Rhode Island house of spirits, is sitting in the audience at this talk.

It's implied that Valak began haunting Lorraine after this exorcism, kicking off the events of The Conjuring 2.

Another fun connection within the movie ends up being a red herring in terms of plot. New character from The Nun, Sister Irene, is played by Taissa Farmiga — the real-life younger sister of Vera Farmiga, who portrays Lorraine. Missed opportunity to have Taissa portray a younger version of the paranormal investigator? Probably, but it's also a fun bait-and-switch to have comic relief "Frenchie" (that's the name that Maurice is called throughout the film, in order to hide his connection to the first Conjuring) be the person who ultimately makes every piece of the puzzle fit together.

More from Movies


R29 Original Series