[The following contains huge spoilers for Annabelle: Creation as well as the other films in The Conjuring franchise. So consider yourself warned. SPOILERS AHEAD.]
Annabelle: Creation, opening this week, is the latest in the increasingly convoluted universe of 2013’s The Conjuring, hereafter to be referred to as the “Conjurverse” (trademark pending) which also includes The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle. In the interest of serving anal-retentive horror fans everywhere, we will attempt to clarify how these disparate — and yet oh-so-similar — films interconnect.
Let’s start with The Conjuring. Set in 1971, the film’s yet another fictional take on a case by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the “demonologists” who made their bones investigating the Amityville hauntings. If you believe in this sort of thing, the Warrens have investigated over 10,000 ghosts, demons, possessions and other paranormal activities. If don’t believe in this sort of thing, the pair are charlatans who made tons of money off the gullible, making up hauntings and cashing in with books, lectures and a museum full of spooky gewgaws. But we digress.
The Conjuring begins with the Warrens (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) traveling to Rhode Island to deal with a spirit possession, but they hesitate to take the job because they just finished up a doozy of a case involving a possessed doll named Annabelle. But they do, and tons of scary things happen because the farmhouse was once owned by witch who sacrificed her child to the devil and then cursed the house. This is the sort of thing that real estate agents should be forced to disclose, because that’s just a huge lawsuit waiting to happen. At any rate, at the end of the movie, Ed Warren takes a music box owned by the one of the children and puts it into his Museum of Haunted Knick-Knacks, and it opens up and plays music all by itself. Scary!
Next up in the Conjurverse, The Conjuring 2 begins on 1976, as the Warrens are wrasslin’ with that darned Amityville house. In this instance, Lorraine is holding a seance and she sees herself being lured into the home’s basement by a demonic nun before she see Ed get killed in a pretty gruesome fashion.
Then it’s off to Jolly Old England to investigate some weird goings-on in a family home. We know they’ve arrived when the soundtrack switches to The Clash’s “London Calling” just like every movie and TV show is now required by law to do, accompanied by shots of Big Ben and somebody eating fish-and-chips on the street. After battling a grumpy old man demon who’s possessed one of the daughters, they discover that the demon is actually serving the will of the demonic nun from the beginning of the movie! (It’s okay — it really doesn’t make any sense.) At the end of the film, Ed take one of the kids’ toys, a zoetrope that plays an animation of a man limping along with an umbrella (the “crooked man” from the nursery rhyme that begins, “There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile…”) and places it in his collection next to the music box and … a creepy doll!
The next film in the series, Annabelle, jumps back to 1969, before The Conjuring. This is the case of the possessed doll that the Warrens were talking about at the beginning of that movie. Here, we begin with a woman named Mia waking up as she hears sounds of a struggle next door. Her husband runs over to investigate, comes back covered in blood, and tells her to call the police. Hugely pregnant, she toddles off to call 911, but before she gets too far with that, a couple of crazed Manson Family-like hippies burst in and she gets stabbed in the belly. The female hippie of the pair grabs a big creepy doll off a shelf, runs into another room, and cuts her own throat while bleeding on the doll. A news report identifies her as Annabelle Higgins.
In typical Creepy Doll Movie fashion, evil things happen, Mia screams a lot about protecting her now-born baby, they try to get rid of the doll and it keeps coming back, a priest figures into the proceedings, and finally somebody throws themselves out the window in an attempt to stop the evil, but the doll disappears. Six months later, we see a woman — the woman from the beginning of The Conjuring who was telling the Warrens about the possessed doll — buying it in a shop.
This brings us to Annabelle: Creation, which takes place back before any of this other stuff happened. A dollmaker and his wife (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) lose their daughter in a car accident. Twelve years later, in the mid-50s, they inexplicably decide to take in a handful of orphans, even though they have a murderous demonic doll locked up in a closet. All the expected Rosemary’s Baby/The Omen/The Ring tropes ensue, and at the end of the film we see the ugly-as-sin Annabelle doll in its glass case in the Warrens’ museum. (The actual doll from the supposed “true life” case was a Raggedy Ann doll, but it would have been hard to make one of those appropriately scary for the movie.
The end of Annabelle: Creation offers not one, but two addenda — a scene showing a now-Annabelle-possessed orphan girl being adopted by the couple who were murdered at the beginning of Annabelle, and then a jump another 12 years to 1969, where we find out that the crazy hippie cult member chick was Annabelle! Still in possession of, you know, the orphan girl.
This, of course, opens the door to the next logical film in the series, in which we’ll see Possessed Orphan Annabelle Chick go all Damian on her parents and get involved with a Satanic cult. As for the other set-ups/loose ends in the Conjurverse: It’s been reported that The Nun and The Crooked Man are already in development, to pick up those loose Easter Eggs left lying around.
Dawn Taylor investigates your mom in Portland.