The universe of James Wan’s 2013 “true-story” horror hit The Conjuring expands this weekend with the David F. Sandberg directed prequel/sequel/spinoff Annabelle: Creation, and the Furious 7 and Aquaman director is just as surprised as audiences that he’s built an extended universe.
The Conjuring memorably brought the spooks and scares to audiences with its old fashioned haunted house sense of style. Most importantly, the creepy Annabelle doll that the Warrens fend against in the film’s opening was deemed popular enough to spawn two spinoff films, and thus started an unexpected trend of horror films all within the universe of the original film. Also coming soon are spinoffs based upon the Nun and Crooked Man characters from last year’s The Conjuring 2, stretching and bolstering what is already a very profitable franchise even further.
With Annabelle: Creation now in theaters, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Wan and director David F. Sandberg about the process of adhering to the timeline rules and challenges that come with making these seemingly typical period piece horror films have connective tissue. Wan, who directed the two main Conjuring movies and is an executive producer on the spinoffs, compared his role in developing the universe to that of a TV show runner, discussing the intricacy that is needed to develop the overlapping mythology and stories that are being established:
“If you start approaching it that way, you kinda see where the films can sort of fan out, where the storylines can fan out and become other stuff.”
Just as important as the story lines in an extended universe is a similar sense of tone within the films, as these films at the very least need to establish a similar visual look to show that they take place under the same horror umbrella. In regards to those similarities, which are very apparent in Annabelle: Creation, Wan speaks to his adoration of old-fashioned horror films from a forgotten era and how they inform the looks of the spinoffs:
“That is the aesthetic that I feel like I’ve set up…and I really want to keep that classical sort of old-school storytelling going on with all these films. Those are the kind of horror movies that I really love, and so I want to make sure that all these films within the Conjuring world feel like they came from the same place. I don’t want them feeling too disjointed from a visual standpoint.”
Sandberg, the Lights Out director whose film is a huge improvement critically over the previous Annabelle film, has landed himself a job helming a DCEU blockbuster in Shazam! He clarified that while Wan wanted to make sure that the films had some sort of connective tissue, he was also given the reins to make the film he truly wanted:
“The only sort of mandate…was to put in these little references to the other movies. But otherwise, it was very free.”
Despite being part of this new Conjuring universe, Annabelle: Creation stands very strong on its own as a standalone horror thrill ride. The film is poised for a big opening weekend, which bodes well for the other spinoffs that are in the pipeline from Wan and company.
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