Benjamin Wollmuth is an avid reader and writer who loves to explore movies and what makes them appealing or unappealing.
Ranking The Conjuring Universe
Hello all! I was contemplating long and hard on whether or not I should do a full in-depth review of the newest entry in this horror franchise, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. If you can't tell, I have ultimately decided to scrap that idea and instead rank all eight of the movies within this horror universe. Hopefully, this list––and the place in which the third Conjuring movie finds itself––will give you a better idea of where that film sits in comparison to the others. I did a lot of rewatching to make this list happen, and I'm excited to finally share my thoughts.
Before I begin, however, I should warn you that there will be spoilers contained within this list. I assume that if you are reading this, you have either seen all of these movies or just don't care about spoilers. I would also like to remind you that this is my list. Therefore, it includes my opinions. If you disagree, that's great. It just goes to show you how subjective films are. Feel free to start a conversation in the comments if you wish to further discuss why certain films landed in their respective places.
But without further ado, let's get started.
8. The Curse of La Llorona
Firstly, I want to state that I have a belief that legends based in foreign countries should not be tackled by American filmmakers. Why? While I do not know for sure, I have a feeling that these country-specific legends can get a little muddled when not executed by filmmakers of said country. In La Llorona’s case, it was directed by a white dude and written by two other white people. Maybe that’s not a bad thing to some, but to me, it makes the film feel as if it’s being made by the wrong people. And maybe the writers and the director are well versed in Latin American folklore, but then why is does the film feel so whitewashed? Why are we following a white family in a movie about a Latin American legend? To me, it makes no sense. There is so much lore surrounding the legend of the weeping woman that is pushed aside in order to create more room for cheap scare after cheap scare. I feel as if the lore would have been explored thoroughly if the film had actually been created by Latin American filmmakers.
Secondly, the film is poorly written, the plot makes no sense at times, and rules set up by the film are continually broken in order to pad the runtime. Moreover, the scares are poor and the film is insanely predictable, minus the one random plot twist––if you want to call it that––that is more stupid than compelling and then never touched on again. This film sits at the bottom of this list for a reason. In other words, it’s not good. In fact, while being my least favorite Conjuring Universe film, it may also sit as a contender for my least favorite horror film of the 2010s.
It also has no reason to be placed within this universe. Why they decided to add it is beyond me.
7. The Nun
Why is an all-powerful demon so bad at killing people? The Nun, sadly, is one of the most boring horror movies I have seen in recent years. Its scares are dull, the writing––specifically the dialogue––is egregious, and the performances are quite lackluster. There’s nothing really exciting to behold. I was never worried about any of the characters because they kept cheating death. The film gives no explanation for why Valak waited so long to try and kill anyone. In reality, I know it’s because you can’t have a full-length film if the main antagonist kills the protagonists in the first half-hour, but they could have at least written a proper reason into the story. Sure, leaving it ambiguous can be fun, but not when zero hints towards what the answer could be are dropped. I have a lot of complaints about this film, and it did not get better on a second viewing. Needless to say, I was disappointed. It only sits higher than La Llorona because it actually felt like it belonged in the horror universe.
Oh, Annabelle. So many people were excited about this movie after the success of The Conjuring, yet so many people––including myself––ended up disappointed. The film was directed by the man who ran cinematography for The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2, another James Wan film. And hey, the cinematography for those movies was quite good. However, the films this guy directs… aren’t so good. Annabelle is one of those films. It’s boring, its story is pretty dull, and, well… it just feels like someone other than James Wan trying to make a James Wan film. It’s not as bad as The Nun or La Llorona, but it still is something that I prefer not to sit down and watch.
5. Annabelle Comes Home
The third Annabelle movie to be released in the Conjuring Universe, Annabelle Comes Home takes the hauntings right to the Warrens' home. This, of course, allows for a more substantial cast of ghosts and ghouls, which creates more opportunities for scares and some pretty damn good imagery. However, this larger cast also leaves the film feeling a little overstuffed. The filmmakers obviously had a lot of ideas, but sometimes executing all of those ideas in one film does not work. There are some things that I think could have been focused more on, which means there are other things that I think could have been left on the cutting room floor. There is also some questionable CGI in this film––CGI so jarring and random that I was taken out of the film upon watching it. I do think the story is interesting, even though it gets repetitive after a while. The performances are pretty good (even though I found one of the characters to be extremely annoying). Even the directing is good, and this was Gary Dauberman’s directorial debut. He spends most of the time behind the scenes as a writer. He wrote this movie, along with Annabelle: Creation and… the first Annabelle movie and The Nun, two films I didn’t exactly enjoy the writing on. So, his writing is a hit or a miss for me, but his directing in this film was pretty good. But again, as many horror films can, this one often feels derivative and drawn out to a point where it appears as if the filmmakers just needed to add stuff in order to fill the runtime. That, and––like The Nun and Annabelle––I never felt as if any of the characters were in danger. The demons are just so bad at killing people, which makes no sense because the main characters aren’t that smart. Overall, Annabelle Comes Home is a worthy sequel to Annabelle: Creation but falls in relation to how overstuffed and monotonous it feels at times.
4. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The newest installation in the Conjuring Universe, The Devil Made Me Do It managed to surprise me. I was worried by the fact that Wan would not be returning to direct, being replaced by Michael Chaves, director of La Llorona (you know my thoughts on that movie). Yet, I had high hopes, because the first two Conjuring movies managed to be quite enjoyable. At times, The Devil Made Me Do It does not feel like a Conjuring movie, but more like another spinoff. It didn’t help that Wan’s signature directing style was not present, and it sure didn’t help that the film wasn’t very scary. However, the film makes up for its lack of scares with its abundant (but brief) and terrifying use of body horror. The imagery in this film is one of the most memorable parts of it. The film also includes some great sustained moments of tension. And, of course, I have to mention the fantastic performances by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. But let me repeat: this one just doesn’t feel like a Conjuring movie. The plot is interesting and is a fun change of pace, moving away from the “haunted house” format of the first two films to incorporate a vast array of settings. But this causes the film to feel like… something else entirely. Moreover, it feels like a downgrade from the others because the antagonist isn’t an all-powerful demon. It’s just a witch. Yes, she is powerful in how she uses demons to do her bidding, but the film doesn’t dig into her backstory enough for me to care about her. We get a small hint of backstory, but, by the end of the film, she was just another villain with nothing special about her. We don’t even really know why she chose to curse the people she did. Overall, The Devil Made Me Do It was a fun installation into the franchise, but it definitely felt weaker when compared to the last three films on my list. Even with the negatives I mentioned, it was still an intense and enjoyable watch.
And damn, that opening sequence was one of the best horror openers I have seen in a while.
3. Annabelle: Creation
Annabelle: Creation was a breath of fresh air after the pretty mediocre prequel to The Conjuring. A prequel to that prequel, Creation tells a more interesting story with equally as interesting characters. Its scares are much more well done, as well, with some intriguing build-up to create more compelling scares. This film was directed by David F. Sandberg, the same guy who directed the not-too-shabby horror film Lights Out. Of course, Lights Out was not perfect, and neither is this film, but when compared to the movie it is following, it definitely stands out. Its issues come in the form of a hodgepodge of horror cliches, which includes––but is not limited to––the aforementioned scares. That doesn’t mean cliches are bad, it just means there could have been some more originality behind it. Either way, the film has some great performances, direction, and production, and I can actually feel the stakes. Girls die––the demon is not messing around. Overall, while sometimes derivative, Creation manages to be a fun and thrilling experience that shows what Sandberg can do with the horror genre. It also told audiences that the Conjuring Universe was still going strong.
2. The Conjuring 2
James Wan is one of the few horror directors who can create an atmosphere that leaves me scared of the dark for a few nights. So, to me, it’s no surprise that the two films in this horror universe directed by him would end up at the two top spots. But why was the sequel not able to surpass its predecessor? The story feels a bit… convoluted. The fact that Valak was haunting this one family all the way across the country in order to lure the Warrens there so it could kill Ed is just a little too unbelievable to me, even for an over-the-top movie about a haunting (but maybe that’s just me). However, that does not mean the film is bad. It took the number two spot for a reason. Wan’s signature directing style is still there, as well as his ability to craft truly terrifying atmospheres. The character development is pretty much on point and the scares are, well… scary. I usually am one to talk negatively about jump scares but there was some great build-up in this film that lead to some awesome imagery, so I cannot complain too much. If it wasn’t for the lingering questions I had after watching the movie, it may have surpassed the original. But because it didn’t…
1. The Conjuring
The best way I can describe The Conjuring is... epic. It’s an epic horror movie, with intense suspense and a fantastic yet horrifying atmosphere. It also includes a truly terrifying soundtrack that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I still get goosebumps watching this film, and I’ve seen my fair share of horror movies. The final exorcism scene is haunting, brutal, and feels all-too-real. I can’t say how loosely or tightly the term “based” was used in relation to this film, but if anything relatively close to this shit actually happened in real life… well, all I can say is “damn.” Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga put on some great performances with their portrayals of Ed and Lorraine Warren respectfully. This film even has some great scares, and it taught me to never play hide-and-clap. Everything positive I said about the sequel fits with this movie, as well. The Conjuring, in my opinion, is one of the best horror films to come out of the 2010s, and James Wan is one of the best modern horror directors. Choosing my number 1 for this list was no hard task––it has always been The Conjuring, and it always will be The Conjuring.
© 2021 Benjamin Wollmuth
Mark Devoll from Massachusetts on June 14, 2021:
This is almost exactly how I would rank the series as well. I might switch Annabelle Comes Home with Conjuring 3 but overall I agree with the list. It's a shame that the lower profile entries like The Nun and La Llorona weren't up to par. There was great potential there.