Is a horror movie spin-off series still a spin-off when it has more films than the original franchise, and the latest entry features the stars of the main series? Or have the Annabelle movies surpassed the actual Conjuring movies as the brightest star in the Conjuring-verse with the latest entry, Annabelle Comes Home?

Annabelle Comes Home follows Ed and Lorraine Warren, as well as their daughter Judy, and Judy’s babysitter and friend as they contend with the evil unleashed in their own home by the now-iconic Annabelle doll. The first Annabelle movie was a prequel, while Annabelle: Creation, which showed the doll’s origin, was a prequel to that. Both movies took place before the events of the Conjuring 1 and 2 occurred.

Where does the new Annabelle movie fit within the larger Conjuring universe? The Conjuring timeline has become pretty convoluted between the Annabelle movies and the main Conjuring films, and that’s before you even begin to take into account the other spin-offs, like The Nun, The Curse of La Llorona, and the still-in-production Conjuring 2 spin-off The Crooked Man.

Luckily, we had a chance to chat with Annabelle Comes Home writer and director Gary Dauberman about the latest Conjuring movie, and we asked him exactly how it all fits together.

The In-Between

Warning: Minor Annabelle Comes Home spoilers to follow.

The opening scene of Annabelle Comes Home takes place shortly after the prologue of the first Conjuring movie, when Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren take possession of the Annabelle doll for the first time. However, a one-year time jump shortly after Annabelle Comes Home’s opening muddies things up a bit.

Thankfully, Dauberman was able to clear it up for us. “The first Conjuring happens in between them bringing the doll home and this movie,” the writer and director said. So while ACH’s cold open occurs before the first Conjuring movie, the rest of the movie takes place after.

That makes the Warrens’ portrayal at the start and the end of Annabelle Comes Home particularly interesting. At the beginning of the movie, Ed and Lorraine have yet to experience the horrors at the Perron house in Harrisville, Rhode Island. When the Warren parents reappear later in the film, they’ve been through quite a lot, although their demeanors don’t seem to have yet been changed by their horrific experiences as paranormal investigators.

Yes, Ed and Lorrain Warren are still the most wholesome couple in horror. Annabelle Comes Home was Dauberman’s first turn in the director’s seat, but far from his first time writing for the screen–his pen was responsible for several previous Conjuring spin-offs, including Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation, and The Nun (not to mention It and It Chapter Two, the Swamp Thing TV show, and more). Although this was his first time writing Ed and Lorraine, Dauberman said he wanted to show the Warrens’ everyday dynamic in this movie, rather than the mortal terror in which we typically find the couple.

“We show them in the beginning of the movie finishing up an investigation, and while they have their own scare and stuff, I really was excited to show them just as a husband and wife and a mom and dad, and just what that sort of downtime conversation they would have in a car driving back from an investigation,” Dauberman said. “I mean, they’re talking about, ‘Hey, it’d be nice to get together and take a family vacation.’ Just normal, everyday stuff, because they’re not normal, everyday people, I thought would be an interesting juxtaposition.”

A Whole New World

Annabelle Comes Home doesn’t only spend time with the Warrens. The bulk of the movie follows their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace), her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), and her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) as they contend with the horrors unleashed in the Warrens’ house. Besides the doll herself, those horrors don’t include any of the familiar entities we’ve come to know over the course of these movies–unless you count the many evil knick-knacks hanging around the Warrens’ infamous artifact room. But ACH does add several new spooks and spirits to the mix, from one called “the Ferryman” to a bonafide Hellhound.

Dauberman said it was important to include some new scares and not continue to rely on existing ones already introduced in the Conjuring movies, like the demon Valak and its many forms.

“It was important only because it felt like that was the promise of the premise,” he said. “While I would have loved to have the Nun in it, it just felt like a unique opportunity to start exploring other artifacts within the artifact room. I wanted to have a lot of fun there and see what inspired me as I mentally walked around the artifact room.”

And, of course, introducing a host of new Conjuring apparitions paves the way for potential future Conjuring spin-offs–although Dauberman said that’s beside the point.

“We’re always listening to the conversations that we’re having with the audience. If they really want to see something, we hope to deliver on that.”

“They were specifically designed for this story, and if people respond to them, great,” he said. “[Series producer] James [Wan] and I have had a lot of conversations about what those movies could be, but it’s not like we went into this going like, ‘Oh, this could be the launch pad for a whole other set of spin-offs.’ We always keep our focus on the movie we’re making, as opposed to, ‘Hey, let’s set something up here, because we have these slots to fill and these years,” or whatever. There’s none of that. It’s always a creative discussion as opposed to a business one.

“That said, James and I, when we’re sitting around the edit suite and all that stuff, we’ve had a lot of fun thinking about what those stories could be–but that was not the initial reason why they’re in there.”

Besides, there are still more Conjuring movies to get through first–including the Crooked Man spin-off, and, more importantly, the long-awaited Conjuring 3. This all begs the question: Is there a bigger plan for the Conjuring universe, the way the Marvel Cinematic Universe all seemed to follow one grand design (at its best, at least)? Dauberman said as far as he knows, the Conjuring movies and their various spin-offs are, at their heart, more reactive.

“From what I understand, there’s not a larger grand plan. It’s always a conversation between us, as the filmmakers and the storytellers,” Dauberman said. “Of course, we have the Warren case files to…use as a resource for how best to tell these stories. And then, you know, we’re always listening to the conversations that we’re having with the audience as well. If they really want to see something, we hope to deliver on that. And we’re hopefully not going to give them something that no one’s asking for.”

“We don’t have a room with a bunch of charts and, ‘Here’s where we’re going to be,’ and all that stuff,” he added.

Regardless, the world of the Conjuring has become one of the most fun cinematic universes to watch, and the latest entry, Annabelle Comes Home, is no exception. Annabelle Comes Home is in theaters now.



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