What initially started as a supernatural horror helmed by James Wan has since expanded into a franchise, introducing a sequel and multiple spin-offs, now deemed as ‘The Conjuring Universe’ [TCU?].
The latest addition, Annabelle: Creation, serves as a prequel, telling the story of a dollmaker and his wife who, several years after the traumatic death of their young girl, welcome a nun and several orphan girls into their home.
However, as the story progresses, they become the target of the dollmaker’s possessed and evil creation, Annabelle. Serving as a prequel to the already established storyline, Annabelle: Creation will pave the way for the future of TCU.
Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) intertwines his interest in old school horror and modern cinema, using it to his advantage whilst directing a period film. “That’s something that I wanted to play around with a bit with this one, shooting in more of an older Hollywood style,” he said at the film’s junket.
“Making it suspenseful was the main thing. To make whenever you have scares, to make it feel earned every time you make the audience jump and that it’s not just something that comes out of nowhere. Really building up towards that so it pays off.”
Though already having the cinematic universe established, Sandberg mentions that James Wan only played a minor role in the films pre-production, allowing the Swedish filmmaker to customise it to his own directing style. “He was mainly involved during the script stage, when it was being written… there were some references that he wanted to make sure were included. We have references to the nun; we have the same demon from the first ‘Annabelle’, but other than that it was very much make it your own, because it is a standalone film,” Sandberg said.
There were some references that he wanted to make sure were included. We have references to the nun; we have the same demon from the first ‘Annabelle’, but other than that it was very much make it your own, because it is a standalone film”.
And what about the doll? “We did look at the doll from the first movie, but smoothed out a few of the features. Then it was ADI [Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc] who did all of our creature work and practical effects that created three different versions of the doll. So, we had the non-possessed one that you only see in one shot of the film, the possessed one, which you see most of the time, and then there was a stunt double, which is the one we would throw down the well and was used whenever we needed to throw it around.”
Did he keep one for himself? “The stunt version, I have that one. She’s actually made of some foam, so you can squeeze her face like a huge stress ball.”
Mexican born actress Stephanie Sigman (Miss Bala, Narcos, Spectre), who plays Sister Charlotte in the newest installment, describes her experience as creepy but also a learning curve. “When you’re responsible for six children, it can be a lot, but we wanted a character that was caring and warm, so it was all about finding a balance in how to play this character so that it could look real,” she said. Whilst filming, Sigman expressed her concern about the doll, requesting to be blessed by a priest prior to filming her scenes. “I told the producers that I’m not touching the doll until we got a priest. In a way I felt safer, because it felt as if someone was looking out for us.”
Since the announcement of Annabelle: Creation, The Conjuring Universe has also welcomed two more spin-offs, The Nun, and The Crooked Man. Both films will continue the psychologically thrilling theme, potentially introducing a larger discussion for future films. Sandberg and the team behind The Conjuring have invited filmmakers to express their interest through a short film competition. Inspired by his own journey to Hollywood, Sandberg is asking filmmakers to produce a short film inspired by TCU, where they will get the chance to win a trip to LA and to get in front of New Line Cinema.
Annabelle: Creation is in cinemas August 10, 2017