Every Conjuring Universe Movie Ranked From Worst to Best
'The Nun' will not be ranke first
The Conjuring Universe’s success continues to confound me. Generally, its films range from unwatchable to well-crafted, but obvious homages to better horror films from past decades. And yet, they continue to kill at the box office.
As I see it, a lot of the Conjuring Universe’s success is tied to the same logic used by many modern superhero movies. First is the built-in lore; realistically, the best thing the Conjuring Universe has done isn’t the movies themselves, but its branding as a cinematic universe. Overall, it’s a business triumph rather than a fruitful artistic endeavor. It avoided the pitfalls of the Dark Universe by waiting to officially call itself a cinematic universe until the coming attractions for Annabelle: Creation, not before The Conjuring came out. Now with enough goodwill earned, every non-Conjuring movie in the franchise is about worldbuilding and fitting into the greater timeline. It’s relatively easy to turn a profit on a low-budget horror movie. It’s a cakewalk to turn a profit on a low-budget horror movie with a built-in audience.
The superhero logic extends to the franchise’s character work. Even with demons causing all sorts of havoc, the body count in each film is never as high as you’d think. Ed and Lorraine Warren will live to fight another demon down the road. Good almost always prevails in the end. The focus is never on the paranormal; it’s on our heroes.
Interestingly, each character’s faith is also used as a weapon against the demonic foes. Captain America has his shield, Tony Stark has his blasters, and Ed Warren has his cross. One’s faith is never explored, much less questioned; instead, a character thrusts their cross forward with all their might to battle against the villain (or demon). An openly religious character isn’t a problem — a crisis of faith is often what makes religious horror movies so enticing — but it is interesting to see the franchise reduce all spirituality to the same effect as Captain America punching a baddie in the face. But in a movie landscape dominated by superheroes, maybe that’s the way to survive.
Nevertheless, the Conjuring Universe continues to grow, so here are my rankings of every film in the franchise:
#8: Annabelle (2014)
In retrospect, maybe handing off the second film in this franchise to John R. Leonetti, whose other directorial efforts at the time included Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2, wasn’t such a good idea. If there’s any silver lining, however, it’s that the clout he received from directing this highly successful spin-off most likely led to Wish Upon, one of the best unintentional comedies of the 2010s.
As for Annabelle, it’s a showcase for mainstream horror at its worst: nothing but jump-scare fakeouts and creaky floorboards. It’s a laughable excuse to string together a few unimaginative horror sequences. Or, more accurately, a few moments of quiet that lead to something spooky running into the negative space of the frame for a second and making a loud noise.
Just watch Wish Upon. It’s a much better way to spend 90 minutes.
#7: The Nun (2018)
The Nun is second only to Annabelle in the franchise’s attempts to soullessly expand this world for profit. After seeing Valak the Demonic Nun in The Conjuring 2 along with a quick mention of her in Annabelle: Creation, we know she’ll live (die?) to fight another day, so the only purpose this film has is filling in the blanks, which is…not fun.
The script is also hilariously bad, leading to a few moments of genuine camp, but mostly scenes that will want to make you slap your forehead in disgust. Valak’s powers seem to grow and shrink based on whatever the scene needs; one minute, she’s burying a character and marking the year of their death on a tombstone with her spooky nun powers (what an oddly specific power), and the next she’s wrestling with a helpless character on the ground. Does this movie have any rules?
Another weird choice: why cast Taissa Farmiga in the lead role when her character is seemingly unrelated to Vera Farmiga’s Lorraine Warren? Was it to artificially inflate the number of fan theories surrounding the film and drive interest for the universe at large? Because it kind of plays that way.
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