The Conjuring Universe has been living steadily across the last decade, churning out 8 films, with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It being the most recent this year. It’s proved to be the ideal series for Horror lovers all around the world, always delivering frightening films, regardless if it’s at its strongest or not. Although often psychological, this franchise leans more into the “jump scare” side of things, and in other scenarios this would be a negative, but these films are the best at it. It’s their forte and no one else from the competition does it as well.
With The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It out in cinemas and HBO Max, it’s time to step back into this horrifying world. With the Ed and Lorraine Warren saga, lead by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, now thriving on a new leaf, there’s almost no telling what territory the Conjuring films can venture into now. But where exactly does this latest entry rank out of the others in the franchise? And for that matter, what does the difference in the ranks have to say about the mass popularity of The Conjuring Universe? It’s time to find out. Here are all 8 films ranked worst to best.
8. The Curse of La Llorona
The Curse of La Llorona is the most gimmicky of the entire franchise. Built around the staple Latin myth, the titular spirit of the film comes off more like a lady who just screeches non-stop than an actual deadly force; it gets a bit repetitive and is disappointing when looking at the legend’s vast history beyond what her name entails. Though with that being said, it still gets the job done. The Curse of La Llorona is by no means a bad film, but it’s just not up to the level of the rest.
Michael Chaves, a first-time director at the time, came off hot from his short film The Maiden. His talent is clear, but it feels like he’s somehow restrained here, even with a big budget at his side. However, in his second feature, he’s allowed to properly shine (more on that later). Nevertheless, the Llorona story is fascinating, making for one of the most intriguing premises of The Conjuring Universe. But much of this already comes with the chilling, real-life legend. They try to visualize La Llorona in a horrifying and mysterious manner, but sadly, as mentioned, the contrivances when it comes to the main ghost actually showing up is where this film dips. But when she’s just lurking, it’s fantastic.
7. Annabelle Creation
A very solid film in The Conjuring Universe that will undoubtedly get under your skin as you discover Annabelle’s origins. Coming off the first Annabelle, which wasn’t very well received, Creation had a big leap to make, and it proved to stick the landing. Showing how the demon first made its way into the Annabelle doll, director David F. Sandberg (Shazam!) is able to wind up the fear factor to eleven, delivering scares that aren’t for the faint of heart.
What makes this film rank lower than the first is that it’s simply a little more forgettable. While the story is fascinating, the characters are less intriguing. Additionally, most of the film plays out in one dark and dingy house, losing some of the eeriness of the first’s daylight-infused scares. Even so, Annabelle Creation has all the right ingredients that make a good Horror and it utilizes them successfully. Like most other films in the series, it’ll scare the wits out of you.
Perhaps the least well-regarded film in The Conjuring Universe, going back to it tells another story. It’s hard to understand the complete distaste that critics originally viewed this film with. Upon revisiting, you’ll find Annabelle to be an engrossing watch from start to end. With the ever-looming demonic presence of the Annabelle doll, you can’t help but be on edge.
Although not as good or disturbing as Rosemary’s Baby, there is a striking parallel between the two films. Thematically, there are aspects like the mother-child relationship that are similar, albeit, in Annabelle, the child is already born. Also, in both films, the father is always absent whenever something goes terribly wrong. Annabelle, like the cult in Rosemary’s Baby, is after the so-called ‘spawn’ of the mother. Having the child as the MacGuffin is often seen in Horror, yet it’s still an effective tool to build dread as we’re nearly all convinced to grow an empathetic attachment to them. The story here is far more engaging than its sequel and it also delivers scares that are on-par, if not scarier than The Conjuring.
One specific scene always comes to mind when looking back at Annabelle, it’s an image that is undeniably unforgettable. The scene where Annabelle, as a child, charges and rapidly transforms into a demon of full size is an absolute shocker. Just one example of the sheer horror on display throughout the film and you could be forgiven if you screamed at the scene.
5. The Nun
Now, The Nun isn’t one of the best-made entries, but it has something very pivotal going for it as a Horror film. There’s something inherently creepy about nuns, but add in demonic elements and it’s automatically scary. Valak, the titular demon, was introduced in The Conjuring 2. But now in The Nun, her origin is told and it’s frightening to no end. Seeing Valak haunt her way around a nunnery is engaging and always hair-raising. You’re constantly awaiting the nun’s presence as her malice seeps through scene by scene. It’s a testament to the atmosphere that director Corin Hardy (The Hallow) builds.
In terms of pure horror, The Nun would rank higher on this list. But the greater goal here is to dive into the films and all their elements. With that in mind, The Nun occasionally slips into cliches, especially, in terms of how it builds up to jump scares. One scene that is perhaps the most memorable involves a coffin (if you know, you know). Even with its few setbacks, The Nun still proves to be genuinely terrifying thanks to its antagonist and overall story.
4. The Conjuring
A list about the Conjuring Universe would be wrong to not include the first film high up, as it started it all. The Conjuring introduces Ed and Lorrain Warren, the two centerpieces that have now captured the hearts of countless fans. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson bring their all as the real-life paranormal duo. Along with director James Wan, the two come together for a fantastically dark film. Technically invigorating and thematically fascinating, The Conjuring is a bold and brilliant first entry.
The Conjuring set a precedent for what you could call “pure horror” films at the start of the last decade. The term meaning a film that utilizes conventional jump scares to provoke sheer thrills. While The Conjuring doesn’t ignore psychological aspects seen in films like The Babadook, it puts a lot of emphasis on creating disturbing beats that provide fear in quick bursts of shock. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Other films try to commit to similar structures but fail as they don’t give any focus to the events that proceed the jump scares. This is where The Conjuring and most of the films in this franchise stand out, thanks to their spellbinding narratives. The Conjuring has a timeless quality and it can be re-watched over and over.
3. Annabelle Comes Home
It’s surprising for a third installment to be this good, but Annabelle Comes Home is one of them. The threequel is constantly nerve-wracking in a surprising way. Not only is it an effective Horror, but a well-made film through and through. Like Annabelle’s previous entries, Annabelle Comes Home builds effective tension that can lead you to sweat in fear.
Gary Dauberman’s advancement from screenwriter to director is very smooth, his experience in the series is especially beneficial (having written the previous two Annabelle films and The Nun). Mckenna Grace is an incredible lead and the film benefits enormously from her performance. Focusing on the younger generation of people in the Conjuring Universe is wholly unique and exciting as Annabelle Comes Home harnesses a different, more lively tone. This “fun” and exciting aspect comes from the “House of Horror” style the film loves to play in, along with the added 60s theming. Annabelle Comes Home is still terrifying and even though there’s a lightness to it, downplaying the horror would be wrong.
2. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The latest film in the series, The Devil Made Me Do It is a non-stop fear ride. The film gets under one’s skin as it delivers prolonged moments of pure horror, with the opening scene being its big calling card. Michael Chaves’ second outing in the Conjuring Universe builds a brooding atmosphere of unfathomable dread, backed up by its precise cinematography and heart-pumping score. All of this combined creates a chilling cinematic experience, one that leaves a deep impact at that. Where this film stands above the others is in its plot; the case that the Warrens tackle this time around isn’t a simple mystery dealing with demonic possession, but something far more twisted and cruel.
The Devil Made Me Do It continues from James Wan’s streak of brilliance, adding another great chapter to the Warren saga. Chaves improves greatly from The Curse of La Llorona, which ranks dead last on this list. It’s quite impressive that he was able to deflect those who didn’t have faith in a main Conjuring film with a new director. His success is only the most recent affirmation of this franchise’s horrific glory. Thanks to this film, the horizon just got bigger for the Warrens, and a whole lot scarier.
1. The Conjuring 2
James Wan’s sequel is incredibly dark and brilliantly made. Coming back to his signature, established style with far more ambition, Wan is able to take the Warrens’ next case to a whole new level. There is nothing in the series that compares to the unfathomable horror that is The Conjuring 2. The cunning introduction of the Nun adds an incredible scare factor. Not only does she haunt Lorrain, but she’s after Ed as seen in Lorrain’s nightmares. Quite frankly, every scene with Valak is memorable and provides this series with its peak scares.
Set in Enfield, England, a family calls for the Warren’s help as they witness paranormal events occurring in their house. A familiar enough premise sure, but these are just the building blocks for a paranormal case more incalculable and out of control than the last (and what’s come after as well). Alongside Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe is otherworldly in a role that recalls Linda Blair’s performance in The Exorcist. Not many leading roles other than Ed and Lorrain stand out in this franchise, but that isn’t the case here.
By exploring a wider variety of ghostly subjects (The Crooked Man was so popular that a spin-off was put in early development) and further fleshing out the Warren’s core relationship, The Conjuring 2 takes the crown on this list. Everything that has come after has been trying to capture the terrifying magic in one similar vein or another, but none have come close to the soul-shattering moments seen here. To put it simply, The Conjuring 2 is nightmare-inducing. It’s hard not to think about getting haunted by the Nun as you slowly fall asleep.