Do you remember that creepy ass doll Annabelle from this past summer’s horror film hit The Conjuring? Wait, you don’t? Allow me to refresh your memory:
Sorry about that. I didn’t want to have to look at that dang doll again either, but at least now we’re on the same page. Well, how would you like to see an entire movie just about Annabelle?
According to Variety, it’s happening. In fact, it goes into production in 10 days (January 27, 2014). Furthermore:
Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders) and Ward Horton will star in Annabelle with John Leonetti, the cinematographer on The Conjuring [whose directing credits include Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Butterfly Effect 2], directing from a script by Gary Dauberman (Bloodmonkey, Swamp Devil).
Where did this come from? The Conjuring was a huge hit this summer, grossing $318 million worldwide while costing a mere $20 million to make. It was a good old fashioned haunted house story from director James Wan, dramatizing one of the more high profile cases from the careers of real life paranormal investigator husband and wife team Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson). New Line was so high on The Conjuring that they put a direct sequel into development even before it came out, locking up stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson to return and holding out hope that James Wan’s self-imposed retirement from directing horror films won’t last. That sequel is still happening; Annabelle will be a spin-off, featuring no involvement from either Farmiga or Wilson.
In The Conjuring, Annabelle bookends the story, haunting its owners at the beginning until the Warrens’ show up and perform an exorcism, and then haunting the Warrens’ own child in their home in the final third. In real life, after neutralizing alleged haunted items the Warrens would remove them wherever they were and place them under lock and key in their own home to keep under safe watch, sometimes behind glass cases. This area of the Warrens’ home was converted into what they called The Warrens’ Occult Museum, which you can still tour today at certain times in Monroe, Connecticut. In The Conjuring, as in real life, Annabelle is placed in this museum behind a special glass case. However, unlike real life The Conjuring thought it would be cool if one of the items escaped from the museum and haunted the Warrens and/or their kid, thus the re-appearance of Annabelle.
According to the Warrens’ Occult Museum, the real Annabelle was a Raggedy Anne Doll owned by a female nursing student who lived in a tiny apartment with a fellow female nurse. Over time, the doll appeared to move on its own, leave behind pieces of parchment paper with notes featuring a child’s hand-writing, and at one point appear to produce blood from its extremities. The roommates contacted a medium who told them the doll was possessed by Annabelle, a sweet young girl who had died when only 7-years-old in the spot where the apartment complex now existed. The girls invited the spirit to fully possess the doll, believing the weirdness would then end. Instead, a friend of their’s then began dreaming about the doll, and claimed to have been severely scratched and nearly choked to death by the doll on two separate occasions. Then the Warrens came in, and everything resolved itself as depicted in The Conjuring. Not depicted in The Conjuring is the Warrens’ claim that once in their museum Annabelle still managed to cause several near-fatal car accidents and one fatal motorcycle accident for museum attendees.
What more story is there to tell then? That’s not clear, although one would guess a prequel of some kind which will likely have to fictionalize quite a bit of its story since the Annabelle tale is pretty much summarized in The Conjuring.
Annabelle may not be the only Conjuring spin-off, though. The rumor mill from two months ago (from fairly reliable sources) had it that New Line was in fact planning three separate spin-offs, each one focused on a separate item from the Warrens Museum. These would presumably be otherwise unrelated stories of cursed objects terrorizing their owners, but unified by their presence in the museum, kind of like how the Friday the 13th TV series used an antique shop to tie together weekly stories about cursed artifacts.
It’s an interesting idea. However, as much as I joked about at the beginning of this article it’s not really the prop of Annabelle that is terrifying but instead the way it was masterfully utilized by James Wan in The Conjuring. The same would be true of any other item in that Museum. As long as Wan’s involvement is limited to a ceremonial Executive Producer credit for any future Conjuring-related films, excitement should be kept in serious check. It’s like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey joked at this year’s Golden Globes, “Once Hollywood finds something we like they just keep doing it until we’re all sick of it.” Without Wan, there’s no guarantee these Conjuring films will be any good. So, we could get sick of them pretty quickly.