Just as director James Wan's Saw gave rise to multiple sequels - with an eighth installment currently in development - and his micro-budgeted supernatural horror film Insidious got a second installment this year with Insidious Chapter 2, Wan's other 2013 release, The Conjuring is about to become the beginning of a new franchise, after having grossed $316 million worldwide against a $20 million budget.
News of a Conjuring sequel leaked before the first movie had even opened in theaters, but it seems that New Line/Warner Bros. have bigger plans than originally thought. Multiple movie/TV news outlets are reporting that the studios are working on three micro-budgeted spinoffs - based on different cases that were investigated by the real Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) - in addition to a direct followup.
Schmoes Know - whose Terminator 5 rumored casting scoop from last week has since been verified by other sites - broke the news of a Conjuring spinoff this past weekend, with a report claiming that the project will be centered around the infamous Annabelle doll from Wan's original feature. Bloody Disgusting later confirmed that the first such spinoff is tentatively titled The Annabelle Story and takes place before The Conjuring, with Wan's frequent cinematographer John R. Leonetti lined up to direct.
There's some disagreement on the filming start date for the Annabelle spinoff, with BD reporting that production could get underway as early as December 2013 and Schmoes Know's sources reporting a Spring 2014 start date target. Either way, it sounds as though the first Conjuring spinoff will reach theaters before the sequel, which is being penned by the original film's screenwriters, brothers Carey and Chad Hayes (who are not involved with development the spinoffs).
Speaking of The Conjuring 2: rumor has it that the film's storyline will draw inspiration from one of the Warrens' lesser-known cases, which involves a pair of sisters from England who were allegedly possessed. New Line/WB is reported to want Wan back as director (after he finishes his work on Fast & Furious 7), but the studios are willing to move ahead without him if he decides to stay on his hiatus from horror moviemaking and pursue other projects (according to Schmoes Know's sources, anyway).
The opening minutes of The Conjuring recounts the Warrens' initial encounter with the Annabelle doll (which became part of their possessed objects collection thereafter), so there might be some important ret-conning in the spinoff, in order to make it a proper standalone film that offers legitimate tension/suspense. That will partly depend on how strong the continuity is between the two movies, as the Annabelle story could take place many years before Wan's original film (see: the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts).
Leonetti's previous output as a director includes Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2. Unfortunately, that may be a testament to the quality of work we can anticipate from the Annabelle film (read: just high enough to clear the direct-to-DVD bar). Other Conjuring spinoff films might not be much better, though they could benefit from having more freedom to explore other creepy incidents documented by the Warrens.
As for Wan's possible return on The Conjuring sequel: it's a must (or the next best thing), given how essential his direction in elevating the original film above being a standard horror offering into a terrifying genre throwback. Wan looks to re-invent Fast and the Furious with the seventh installment - taking the series into French Connection-style 1970s action/thriller territory - and Insidious producer Jason Blum has already predicted that his work on Fast & Furious 7 will make Wan an even better horror filmmaker.
Indeed, even though Insidious: Chapter 2 earned a rather so-so reception, Wan deserves credit for moving the supernatural horror series in a different and intriguing direction. He could do better with The Conjuring sequel, being all the more refreshed after having taken a break from the horror genre. Otherwise, it seems The Conjuring may end up going the way of Saw and Paranormal Activity.
We'll keep you posted on The Conjuring spinoffs/sequel as more information is made available.