How The Conjuring became the Marvel of horror

How The Conjuring became the Marvel of horror

There’s nothing scarier than the truth. If you’re a true believer in the paranormal then you likely know this couple, Ed and Lorraine Warren. And if you don’t you might have heard about movies they inspired like The Conjuring, Annabelle, The Haunted, The Nun The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut.
Their story spanned a cinematic universe that rivals the success of… well, the main one you think of when I say the words cinematic universe. But this isn’t the first time their stories are told. So how did this very specific, very scary Conjuring universe… become so successful? Ed Warren was a demonologist.

Paranormal Investigators Warrens

Lorraine Warren was a trance medium… better known as a clairvoyant. Together, for decades, they were paranormal investigators… looking to some of the most famous occurrences of the occult… all over the world. “This was just another haunted house, and we didn’t even realize… that six people had been murdered in that house: The Defoe family.

They investigated hauntings of small children demonic presences and even a werewolf… which is all detailed on their incredible website that has case files for some of their most famous investigations. This one in particular was no joke. As Lorraine explains in this featurette from Warner Brothers. “This is the worst thing.
I’m not going to—I’m not going to stare at it, though.” “That has done bad harm on a lot of people. Now, why would they have a creepy doll on display like that? Well, after the Warrens closed a case they would often take the haunted objects back home in order to keep them safe from the public.

Haunted Warrens Legacy

They kept them in their basement in Monroe, Connecticut… which went on to become an occult museum considered to be… “The most haunted area in the world.” That’s what I would say. I would say that it is. Without even mentioning Hollywood I think anyone would say that their story has all of the ingredients to make an awesome movie.

But when Hollywood has tackled their cases… most of the films have left the Warrens out of the narrative. Like there are roughly 30 Amityville movies about this haunted house where in 1976 the Warrens and their crew investigated… and took this ghost photo of a boy who had been murdered there. But none of these films were specifically about the couple.

The Warrens were portrayed on the small screen in 1991’s The Haunted— which can I just say, [chef’s kiss with Italian hands] excellent title. But they weren’t put at the center of any story until 2013’s… The Conjuring. The movie that changed everything for the horror genre. And that’s not hyperbole.
The Conjuring is the highest grossing horror franchise of all time. But before we dive into the boring financials of the universe… let’s first talk about why The Conjuring worked. The trailer for the film lays on the concept of candor really thick. “It’s not a haunting.” “It’s not a possession.

Marketing Gold

But the truth.” It was marketing gold, of course. But the truth was also incredibly important to the creative team. Lorraine Warren was a consultant on the film and she became close friends with her onscreen counterpart. The subjects of the film, the Perron family who were haunted and eventually possessed by a witch named Bathsheba… are still very much alive and have given chilling interviews with Warner Brothers. Like in this other featurette. “I doubt very much that I will be willing to see the film… for the same reason I’m unwilling to ever go back to the house.” Jesus Christ. Of course, creative liberties are always taken but the team had a lot of reverence for the truth.

Reflecting on the film recently with Entertainment Weekly. Director James Wan said that one of the things he wanted to do is to treat it like it’s straight forward drama and not even a horror film. And that’s pretty clear because the story is heartfelt… the acting is sincere and grounded, and it was masterfully shot.
This is true of pretty much every movie in The Conjuring universe. They all try to keep an emotional story at the center… whether it’s romantic, familial, or friendship… and they all have extremely creative scares. And if you have beef with that statement then you can take it up with my electric bill.

Conjuring Nightmares

Because after rewatching the movies I have not been able to sleep with light off for days and I really wish I was joking. But I am so scared. The first 10 minutes of The Conjuring are primarily focused on building out who the Warrens are through the Annabelle case. You know the one about the extremely haunted doll that Lorraine was talking about earlier? “That harmed a lot of people.

It looks a little different in the movie… but it’s a great way to establish that Ed and Lorraine are accomplished paranormal investigators… while giving the audience a quick hit of scares before moving on to the actual subject of the movie: The Parron family. But also plants seeds to show that there are more stories to tell in this world.
Like in The Conjuring, we get glimpses of Annabelle. In The Conjuring 2, we get a few moments with the zoetrope of the Crooked Man. In Annabelle Creations we get a photo that briefly features the nun. It’s like the films are constantly referencing their deep archive of case files. But of course, no device is more beautiful for building out a universe than the occult museum.

Horror Universe Expansion

It’s like the Infinity Stones times a million. And the film’s creators knew this. Director James Wan even said that it occurred to them early on. “There’s already a superhero universe.” “Why couldn’t they do that in the horror world?” When you think of your favorite horror films they’re often continuously running franchises.
People liked Halloween. So let’s give them more Halloween. Same with Nightmare on Elm Street. But not The Conjuring. One year after its release, Annabelle came out… giving a feature length treatment to the minor story at the beginning of The Conjuring. That would be like if Scream was followed up by a spin-off of the history of Drew Barrymore’s character.

Conjuring Universe Success

Who—spoiler alert for a 27-year-old-movie— dies in the first 15 minutes of the film. But of course, the filmmakers didn’t do that. They just did Scream 2, which followed characters from Scream 1 on a new slashing adventure. Like the MCU, The Conjuring expands the universe around its characters. The Warrens, Annabelle, and the Nun
all have their own standalone francizes which have connective tissue across movies but then they’ll also crossover. Like how the Warrens show up in the final Annabelle movie. The strength of doing a shared universe is that you get to bounce around with completely different vibes. But there’s one more thing that makes the Conjuring universe stand out as a massive success.

They make a huge bang for their buck thanks to their reasonably small budgets. This is because they’re often haunted house films. And when you’re mainly using one location… you have fewer variables, more control, and can shoot way faster. And they’re not just successful by horror metrics. Compare the return on investment of the budget versus the box office to other shared universe and the results are impressive, to say the least. And Warren passed away in 2006. Lorraine Warren passed away in 2019. In their 61 years of marriage the couple investigated over 10,000 cases. With no sign of The Conjuring universe’s popularity slowing down… there are still so many stories left to tell.