Who would have guessed that a film universe incorporating a supposedly haunted, real-life doll would become so popular?
In the space of just six years, a number of films have emerged to form the Conjuring Universe, many of which are linked to the demonic Annabelle doll, and the ghost-hunting Warrens who came to own her.
And this June sees the addition of Annabelle Comes Home to the existing supernatural franchise. For those of you who may not already be familiar with Annabelle's mythology, we have prepared a handy guide of everything that you need to know.
What is the franchise about?
The Conjuring Universe began with the release of the first Conjuring movie in 2013. Set in 1971, it introduces us to real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), and their attempts to assist people seemingly possessed by demonic spirits.
The first movie was based on the Warrens' actual investigation into a terrifying Rhode Island haunting, while at the same time incorporating the presence of the Annabelle doll, locked away in a glass cabinet in their museum of supernatural antiquities. Similarly, Annabelle does actually exist in real life – she's a Raggedy Ann doll who was kept under strict lock and key by the Warrens, although whether she's actually possessed is up for debate.
Since then, the Conjuring Universe has encompassed an additional five films, all leading up to the release of Annabelle Comes Home in June. (And before then, the next instalment The Curse of La Llorona arrives in May.)
The first Annabelle film (released in 2014) is set in 1967 and serves as a prequel to The Conjuring, showing how she destroyed the lives of an unassuming Californian couple before passing into the hands of the Warrens. Annabelle: Creation (2017) takes everything further back to 1955, showing us how she first came into existence.
The Conjuring 2 (2016), in which Annabelle is something of an incidental presence, takes place in 1977 and explores London's notorious Enfield poltergeist haunting. And The Nun (2018), takes place in 1952 in a Romanian convent tormented by hideous demon Valak. Again, Annabelle is somewhat sidelined but she's nevertheless a malevolent mainstay throughout this blockbuster franchise.
Have the movies been successful?
The first two Conjuring films were greeted positively by both critics and horror fans, with the on-screen chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga being particularly well received. Critics also cited the stylish direction of James Wan, who went on to helm DC's Aquaman. Both films grossed in excess of $300 million worldwide against relatively small budgets, so it's little wonder a successful franchise was born.
In contrast, the first Annabelle film received less favourable reviews, with many fans considering it inferior to the earlier Conjuring. In spite of this, Annabelle went on to become very successful, ultimately going on to make $257 million worldwide against a budget of $6.5 million. Likewise, Annabelle: Creation was a big hit, raking in $306 million against a $15 million budget. And The Nun was the biggest hit in the franchise so far, grossing over $365 million worldwide.
The franchise's cumulative global box office currently stands at an impressive $1.56 billion. With Annabelle Comes Home and The Curse of La Llorona out soon, and The Conjuring 3 set for release in 2020, we can see this hot streak continuing.
What do we need to know about Annabelle Comes Home?
Written and directed by Annabelle and IT screenwriter Gary Dauberman, Annabelle Comes Home serves as a sequel to both Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation. Co-written by James Wan, the film sees Wilson and Farmiga reprising their roles as the Warrens, with McKenna Grace (Gifted), Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and Katie Sarife (Supernatural) joining the cast.
Dauberman has confirmed that the movie takes place shortly after the beginning of The Conjuring. In an attempt to prevent Annabelle causing any more destruction, Ed and Lorraine Warren lock the possessed doll away in their home, placing her safely behind sacred glass. However, they are not prepared for Annabelle to awaken the evil spirits in the room, setting their sights on a new target in the form of the Warren's ten year old daughter (Grace).
What is the future of the franchise?
Next month sees the release of The Curse of La Llorona, a horror film starring Linda Cardellini (Green Book) and Tony Amendola. Though marketed as a standalone release it does fit within the wider Conjuring universe, with Amendola reprising his role as Father Perez from Annabelle. The movie explores the curse of the dreaded Mexican entity known as the 'weeping woman', who torments a mother and her two children in 1970s Los Angeles.
Michael Chaves, the director of La Llorona, is also set to direct The Conjuring 3, after previous director Wan revealed that scheduling conflicts would prevent him from stepping behind the camera for a third time. Once again Wilson and Farmiga are set to reprise their roles, with the plot believed to revolve around a legal trial, where the defendant claims to have been possessed during the crimes of which he is accused. Whether Annabelle will play a significant role remains to be seen…
Which of these do you think will be the most terrifying? Let us know @Cineworld.
Hannah Dixon is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.