The Conjuring — consisting of two films in the main series (with a third being discussed); the 2014 spin-off Annabelle and a sequel to that (Annabelle: Creation) being released this summer; and The Nun, another spin-off film, currently in development — is on its way to becoming one of the most lucrative horror franchises ever.
As noted, the next instalment is Anabelle: Creation, a prequel to the first film looking at a dollmaker and his wife, who, having lost their daughter two decades earlier, have created a doll in her image. Being kindly sorts, they open up their home to a nun and several girls from a recently-closed orphanage, but — wouldn't you know it? — that doll happens to be of the possessed variety, and begins to torment one of the girls in particular (with lots of collateral damage, of course).
What was it about Annabelle: Creation that drew you to it as director?
It was a couple things. First of all, it was a standalone film, so it wasn't just a repeat of the first film, though if you’ve seen the first one, there will be moments where you go, “OK, I see how it ties together.” But this was something I could make my own; it wouldn’t have been very fun to just do the first movie again. Also, I just love this universe that James Wan created, because it has a very classic feel to it. That allowed me to go quite classical with the filmmaking, which was something that enticed me a lot. To do pretty long takes and really stage the movie in a certain way and do sort of transitions between scenes and really go kind of old school. And with the soundtrack as well, which was very inspired by The Shining, which I think has one of the best scores of any horror movie. When we were cutting, the temp music we used was so much Penderecki, which really is what they used in The Shining.
Killer dolls — what’s the fascination?
I'm not sure. I think the creepiness of dolls is probably an uncanny value factor. We've created these things that look like us, but we get creeped out because, you know, is it a person? Is there something in there? I don't know. There's just something creepy about dolls. It’s just something about a doll and if it would move, it would just freak you out.
What was the most challenging aspect for you as a filmmaker?
For this particular film, the doll. You don’t want her walking around like Chucky, so we had to find creative ways to do it. Creating scares and making things tense is hard. You have to experiment a lot to get it right. And there are certain rules with Annabelle. You can’t really see her walk around, so how do we make her a threat if she can’t move? You have to come up with other ways of moving her around. We kind of throw a sheet over her and the sheet moves, and that’s how we sort of get away with it. At the same time, you have to see her as being a vessel for evil, so you can have things happen around her. You have to approach it that way.
How would you describe the power of this film?
We just tried to do the scariest movie possible. Once we get over sort of the halfway point of the movie, it's just action and scares the whole way through, pretty much. I think it might be hard to watch for some people. It will be pretty intense.
Is it difficult to maintain that kind of through line and keep the genre elements fresh?
It is. You have to just sort of be careful and have to have this sort of dynamic range and not just have scare, scare, scare. You have to have the quiet moments and the big moments and the quiet ... It's a fine balance.