With The Nun currently in cinemas and doing the best of all The Conjuring films at the box office so far, I thought now would be a good time to rank the films in the series so far. Whilst The Nun itself is very disappointing and the general consensus negative as well, these films have clearly made a big enough impression to draw dedicated audiences in to watch them. Certainly of all of the cinematic universes that studios have tried to start up post-Marvel, The Conjuring series is unquestionably the most successful so far. Unlike other big-budget films that studios hope will be successful enough to start their own series, with The Conjuring a horror franchise and their budgets relatively low, they all easily make a profit so perhaps this is one reason why it has had more success than others.
Here is my ranking:
Annabelle is unquestionably the worst of the series and has virtually no redeeming qualities to it whatsoever. Riding off the success of The Conjuring a year before, it is a blatantly unoriginal, preposterous cash grab that save for one very well orchestrated scare and beautiful cinematography, is a dud. Annabelle lacks any of the sense of dread The Conjuring has and the jump scares are obvious and uninspiring. The cast are uniformly terrible, in particular Ward Horton and the script is cringeworthy. Its ending is particularly offensive where characters make irrational and stupid decisions and I actually laughed at the film. It’s a film that looks like it should have gone straight-to-DVD. I struggle to think of how a horror film can be worse and this was a complete U-turn in quality for the series.
4) The Nun
The latest in the series, perhaps the simplest way of describing The Nun is by calling it a ‘beautiful disaster’. The film is an absolute trainwreck – the film is edited extremely badly, its overreliance on jump scares mean that it isn’t scary and the story is borderline incoherent. However, it would be very easy to just completely dismiss this film and rip it apart and unlike Annabelle, there are some redeeming qualities to The Nun.
Director Corin Hardy is clearly a horror aficionado which shows in the film’s cineliteracy (there are allusions to some of the Hammer horror films for instance) and the film is quite atmospheric and establishes a chilling setting. For instance, there are some breathtaking shots of the exteriors of the monastery which really portray the grandeur and influence it has on its characters. This is by far, the most frightening aspect of the film and leaves a lot to audience interpretation. It’s strange then that Hardy resorts to jump scares, which are all poor and there is not a single memorable one in the film. It’s also strange that Hardy chooses to punish the characters in the worst possible way towards the beginning of the film. There is an extended sequence where a character is stuck in a grave, which is a horrifying scenario but anything that happens to this character afterwards is never as bad. Surely, this sequence would have worked better towards the end of the film? Despite these fatal mis-steps, all of Hardy’s good work in the film’s atmosphere is undone and squandered by how the film has been edited. Every scene films too brief and this really hinders in creating a creepy atmosphere. Somewhere here is a good enough film, but the way it has been edited completely undermines this and this results in The Nun ultimatelby being very disappointing. (My full review here)
There is now a big step up in quality…
3) The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring 2 isn’t as strong as the first film – it is overlong which severely impacts the pacing and just isn’t quite as interesting a story as the first one was. However, horror-maestro James Wan delivers in spades on the scare-front and the film has some truly frightening sequences and there are also some great performances from the cast. Only Wan could have made or been given permission to make this film as 134 minutes for a horror film is uncommonly long and whilst there is a lot of character development (and self-indulgence), 20 minutes could fairly easily have been chopped off and the film would almost be as strong as the original. This is definitely its main problem which is to its detriment. The film bears many similarities to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and there are a couple of moments where the film leaves a bit of a sour taste as it reiterates many of the clichéd elements of superior horror films. Coming off a near-perfect original, it’s a shame The Conjuring 2 isn’t a knock-out, but that was always going to be impossible and there is still a lot to like in this film. (My full review here)
2) Annabelle: Creation
Annabelle: Creation is a marked improvement over its predecessor and is suitably scary, features good character development and is shot beautifully by cinematographer Maxime Alexandre. It also ties itself nicely into the wider universe but not enough to detract from the film – director David F. Sandberg still manages to satisfy on a standalone level. One must applaud Sandberg for having a go at crafting many different types of scares and seeing what sticks and there are several sequences which are superbly crafted. Unfortunately, the film does stick to convention at times and there are a few sections bordering on comedy but it is so, so much better than its predecessor in every level. When the film works, it’s superb and it’s nice and tightly paced. It’s astounding how much of a shift in quality this is from the first film which had no hope. (My full review here)
1) The Conjuring
The Conjuring is by far and away the best film in the series and also represents a career best for director James Wan, which this film really helped to propel his career. The film is suitably scary, very atmospheric and has a fascinating narrative. Wan develops the characters superbly, in particular Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who are great as The Warren’s. Although the scares aren’t the most original, it’s in the execution which allows this film to really deliver and some of the set pieces in this film are mesmerising. The Conjuring is a film that is even better on rewatches and when we come back to look on the horror genre in the 2010’s, this film will definitely be remembered.
Overall, although there is certainly variation between the best and worst in this list, this is ultimately a series that has generally been strong and with another Annabelle sequel, a third Conjuring film and another spin-off, The Crooked Man, I hope these are also worthy of the franchise’s name and I hope The Nun was just a blip.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister