Remember those Brady Bunch episodes when they went to Hawaii and Bobby found the evil tiki that ruined part of their vacation? Similar happenings occur in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to the Warren bunch – our happily married demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga). It involves a satanic totem that wreaks even more havoc than Greg wiping out while surfing or Alice throwing her back out during a hula lesson. The latest Conjuring franchise pic delves deeper into the occult than previous entries and it is again based loosely on a true story.
This centers on the 1981 case of Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who was the first American to claim demonic possession as a defense during trial. As we learn in the pretty effective opening sequence, his curse was passed like a hot potato from 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). That little boy is exorcised by the Warrens and church officials in a body twisting procedure, but his malady is transferred to his sister’s boyfriend. That results in Arne returning home from work and his dogs are barking. His feet are fine. Arne works in a boarding kennel and those pups know something is off with him. The rest of Connecticut figures it out shortly after when he brutally stabs his boss.
Ed and Lorraine are naturally sympathetic to Arne’s forthcoming legal proceedings and seek to discover the backstory of how this came to be. Lorraine’s clairvoyant abilities unveils a tale of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Ed is hampered by heart problems. In fact, he experiences more ticker palpitations than you might as a viewer.
In 2013, the original Conjuring emerged as one of the finest horror pics in recent years. None of the official sequels or spinoffs have come too close to matching it and that holds. Michael Chaves takes over directorial duties from James Wan. Like the first two, this is well-made and doesn’t suffer from the cheap knockoff vibe that, say, Annabelle had. To be fair, even the Annabelle follow-ups improved. The last time we saw the Warrens was in 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home and I would say it had more pure entertainment value than this.
That’s not to say Devil is bad. It’s just another so-so example of creaking sound effects and jump scares that intermittently possesses a genuine scare. This even gets a little gooey towards the conclusion with its love conquers all theme. You can’t blame the filmmakers. Ed and Lorraine, in real life apparently and certainly on screen, have been through a lot. It’s too bad they weren’t in Hawaii back in the seventies. Maybe Alice would have had a far more pleasant hula lesson.
The first Annabelle spinoff in 2014 felt like a cheap and quick money grab after the success of The Conjuring the year before and I’d say it stands as the worst experience in this cinematic universe. Three years later, Annabelle: Creation managed to slightly improve on its predecessor as it told the 1950s set backstory of the demonic doll. Some horror aficionados felt it was a significant improvement, but I wouldn’t go that far. Annabelle Comes Home, which takes place about a year after the events of The Conjuring, accomplishes what very few trilogies can. I think this is the best of the trio and about on the level with The Conjuring 2 as far as effectiveness. That means it’s nowhere near the quality of the film that kicked the whole shebang off, but it’s well-crafted and feels like some effort got put into it.
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are back and they basically bookend this latest haunting. The real focus is their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) as she deals with that supremely creepy looking title doll. Her parents have recently acquired Annabelle and locked her in a case that explicitly warns others to keep it closed. When the Warrens go off somewhere investigating what will probably be a Conjuring flick someday, Judy is left in the care of high school babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) joins the party and is curious if there are evil spirits lurking in the Warren household. She’s also desperate to connect with her recently deceased father.
As we know, Daniela has found the right house to do just that. Her actions unlock a whole lotta spirited occurrences which come with the franchise’s now well-known and precise sound effects editing. Home marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who wrote the first two Annabelle‘s and The Nun (he also penned both It pics). This walks a sometimes pleasurable line between the terrorized babysitter premise while being steeped in Conjuring lore. We briefly see several other spirits awakened and that includes a dog who’s a bad boy and a board game with a mind of its own.
Yet Annabelle Comes Home never turns into Ouija or Cujo. Most of the focus is on Annabelle. And despite her still scary appearance, no Conjuring sequel/spinoff has quite nailed the key objective: being consistently scary itself. With the exception of Annabelle’s first 2014 starring role, they look good and sound really good. They’re also far cries from what started it all.
America’s favorite paranormal investigating peeps The Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are back in theaters and on HBO Max next week in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This is the second sequel to the 2013 horror hit and the eighth overall entry in the Conjuring Universe. Michael Chaves (who made the previous series effort The Curse of la Llorona) takes over directorial duties from James Wan, who produces and shares a story credit. Costars include Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, and Julian Hilliard.
Originally scheduled for a September 2020 premiere before its COVID delay, Devil will attempt to reach an opening weekend gross commensurate with its predecessors. That could be a helluva task. Both pics with Conjuring in the title made just over $40 million for their starts. The first two Annabelle spin-offs took in over $30 million out of the gate. Another spin-off, The Nun, actually holds the series record with $53 million. Yet the past two flicks couldn’t match up. The third Annabelle made just over $20 million while the aforementioned la Llorona hit $26 million.
Those dwindling earnings could continue here. I’m a bit surprised that Warner Bros is releasing this just one week after A Quiet Place Part II, which should still be making loud noises at multiplexes. Furthermore, some fans with Max subscriptions will opt to view it in the comfort of their home. This franchise, on the other hand, has often shown an ability to over perform (The Nun hitting $50 million plus was not anticipated). Yet for the reasons described, I believe Devil could end up having the lowest domestic debut of the whole bunch.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opening weekend prediction: $19.8 million
We aren’t exactly blessed with a new horror classic in TheNun, the latest entry in the seemingly endless possibilities for spinoffs in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe. It does, however, manage to rise above the Annabelle creations before it with some style points and an occasional identity of its own. While both Annabelle and its sequel often felt like unnecessary cash grabs, I’ll give director Corin Hardy a bit of credit for creating something a little different. Let’s call it maybe a B- for trying.
The title character here first appeared in TheConjuring2. She’s a demonic nun possessed by evil spirit Valak. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) had to put up with her sister acts of violence in that picture. This prequel and spin-off (preoff?… spinquel??) takes it back two decades earlier to the 1950s in Romania. A nun has committed suicide in a monastery after making the acquaintance of Valak and the Vatican enlists Father Burke (Demian Bechir) to look into it. He’s paired up with Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), who’s still in the novitiate (or training) stage before taking her vows.
Once they reach the scene of the death, Father and Sister are subject to lots of shadowy lurking, visions of terror, and charming local Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) who provides a couple moments of genuine comic relief. That’s not something often found in this particular Universe and it’s welcome because these pics aren’t worth taking seriously.
2013’s TheConjuring was a very entertaining and scary genre exercise. The direct sequel and the offshoots haven’t come close to its power. And TheNun is nowhere near as entertaining or scary. Yet I wouldn’t classify this one as lazy. The monastery setting creates a sometimes effective claustrophobic feel. We know this franchise is all about jump scares and they’re in bountiful supply. I’ll give Taissa Farmiga props for her ability to act as terrified as her big sister Vera in the main series flicks. Calling this the best spin-off thus far isn’t praise of the highest power, but I’ll confess to it holding my interest better than the doll.
2019 has seen a number of franchises stumble hard with their sequels and reboots. Yet Warner Bros has one of the sturdiest series in recent memory with the Conjuring Cinematic Universe. Next week brings the third edition of the Annabelle entries and I don’t see fatigue among horror fans happening here.
AnnabelleComesHome marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who penned both predecessors and last fall’s spin-off TheNun. Mckenna Grace and Madison Iseman star and this time Conjuring leads Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga join the doll party.
As mentioned, this has been a mighty profitable franchise for its studio. After five pictures, the lowest opening belongs to Annabelle: Creation at $35 million two summers ago. However, it legged out better than 2014’s Annabelle ($102 million vs. $84 million). Any thought of the series dwindling was dispelled last fall when TheNun took in $53 million for the best premiere of all.
What might give this Annabelle the lowest debut yet is a matter of logistics. This one opens on Wednesday and that will certainly eat into its traditional weekend haul. I still foresee a high 20s Friday to Sunday gross and high 40s when factoring in the extra two days.
AnnabelleComesHome opening weekend prediction: $27.4 million (Friday to Sunday); $38 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
Next weekend could provide an interesting answer to a question not posed before – how much can a Conjuring series picture gross if a lot of moviegoers may not be aware it’s actually part of the franchise? I give you TheCurseofLaLlorona, the sixth entry in this scary supernatural cinematic universe. The 1970s set ghost tale is directed by Michael Chaves in his feature-length debut (he’s slated to be behind the camera for the third official Conjuring flick next year). Linda Cardellini headlines a cast that includes Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Tony Amendola (reprising his Annabelle role), and Sean Patrick Thomas.
Llorona premiered last month at the South by Southwest Festival. Early reviews are mixed to negative with a current 44% Rotten Tomatoes score. At the time of its unveiling, it was a bit of a surprise that this even existed in the billion dollar worldwide franchise. It’s a legitimate question as to whether the marketing campaign has had enough time to establish that fact.
In my view, that almost certainly means this will experience the lowest debut of the series so far. Horror fans have certainly had options lately with Us and PetSematary. That said, it’s a risky group of films to bet against. Just last fall, TheNun unexpectedly set the franchise opening weekend high mark at $53 million. The lowest start belongs to Annabelle: Creation at a still impressive $35 million. That creepy doll, by the way, is back this June with AnnabelleComesHome.
Tracking currently has this at $20 million and that sounds about right.
TheCurseofLaLlorona opening weekend prediction: $20.1 million
Blogger’s Note (09/05/18): I am revising my estimate up from $38.4 million to $45.4 million
The Conjuring Cinematic Universe rolls along when The Nun debuts next weekend. The fifth entry in the highly successful Warner Bros horror franchise is a prequel to all four previous pictures. Our title character was first glimpsed at in 2016’s The Conjuring 2. Corin Hardy directs a cast that includes Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga (sister of Conjuring star Vera), Jonas Bloquet, and Bonnie Aarons.
Just a couple of weeks back, The Nun received some unexpected publicity when YouTube pulled one of its trailers off the site due to its frightening jump scares. If anything, that notoriety could help peak the curiosity of moviegoers. Not that it necessarily needs it. The opening weekend grosses of this series have been remarkably consistent. Here’s the rundown:
The Conjuring – $41.8 million
Annabelle – $37.1 million
The Conjuring 2 – $40.4 million
Annabelle: Creation – $35 million
I don’t see any compelling reason why The Nun would change that range. You could say it seems pretty (ahem) black and white to me. I’ll predict this scary sister act hits high 30s.
The 2014 Conjuring spin-off Annabelle didn’t exactly leave me clamoring for an origin story of the motionless demonic doll, but here we are with Annabelle: Creation. Set 12 years before the events of its predecessor, this prequel manages to be a slight improvement. Unfortunately that isn’t saying much.
A prologue documents toy maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) tragically losing their young daughter. Dad’s profession reveals that he’s the creator of the doll that first appeared in 2013’s TheConjuring. We suspect his child’s demise will later tie into Annabelle’s evil ways.
We skip ahead to a dozen years later in the mid 1950s as six orphans and their nun caretaker (Stephanie Sigman) are looking for a home. They are taken in by the Mullins family on their sprawling country property. Janice (Talitha Bateman) is crippled by polio and quickly stricken by a feeling that something isn’t right with the creepy doll she finds at the house.
Those familiar with the franchise know the technicians involved in the film’s making pretty much take it from there. Creation wishes to generate its suspense through sounds and lighting reveals. David F. Sandberg, who last directed LightsOut, is behind the camera.
The original Annabelle felt like what it was – a quick cash grab to build on the success of TheConjuring. It also looked a little cheap. This doesn’t. It’s just not very scary. If you add up all the time throughout several pictures where the camera lingers on its title character, you might have enough screen time for a fifth entry in the series.
The makers of Creation succeed occasionally at putting together a fast scare, but it’s nearly two-hour runtime seems drawn out and routine. All the camera tricks and sound works cannot ultimately make Annabelle seem more than a mostly dull ploy to keep the franchise rolling.
The demented doll made famous four summers ago is back in Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to 2014’s original, which itself was a spin-off of 2013’s breakout horror smash TheConjuring. This follow-up is from director David F. Sandberg, who made last summer’s well-received LightsOut. Stars include Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto.
There is one major difference between the 2014 spin-off and its sequel. While Annabelle only obtained a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this one is surprisingly at 100% and is obviously said to be a marked improvement.
How will that translate to box office dollars? Annabelle opened to a better than anticipated $37.1 million and was front loaded in its business with an eventual $84 million domestic gross. TheConjuring2 from last summer couldn’t quite match its original’s debut (though it was awfully close at $41 million vs. $40 million).
Competition is relatively light, but even with the solid reviews, I don’t expect Creation to quite match the premiere of its predecessor. However, it may leg out better. I’ll say a high 20s to low 30s debut is most probable.
Annabelle: Creation opening weekend prediction: $31.4 million
For my The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature prediction, click here:
Low-budget horror pic Wish Upon hopes to scare up some box office dollars when it comes out next weekend. The reported $12 million production focuses on a mysterious music box that grants wishes to terrifying results. Annabelle director John R. Leonetti is behind the camera with a cast that features Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee, and Sherilyn Fenn.
The marketing campaign for this has seemed a little under the radar. Flicks of this genre can certainly exceed expectations, but I’m not expecting much here. We have already seen one example of a horror entry underwhelming this summer with It Comes at Night and it garnered very favorable reviews. There’s also significant competition in the form of War for the Planet of the Apes being in its opening weekend and Spider-Man: Homecoming being in its second.
I’ll predict Wish Upon is granted a debut just under half its meager budget.
Wish Upon opening weekend prediction: $5.9 million
For my War for the Planet of the Apes prediction, click here: