Once upon a time, the idea of a shared universe of films was only a fanboy’s pipe dream. In the early 1990s we were teased for over a decade about the eventual grudge match between Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, our appetites whet by a surprise appearance of Freddy’s glove at the end of Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday
But we always saw this as fan service, a tip of the hat to the audience that made sure these franchises had an endurable legacy. It was a gift to the fans, rather than a calculated marketing tactic. Today, though, no tentpole blockbuster can be made without having some intricate web of sequels and spinoffs that can create a “shared universe,” all thanks to Marvel’s meteoric success with their franchises.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe gave studios a template to follow, one immediately mimicked in Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe. By layering in elements of an overarching story throughout multiple connected films, they can use this as a decade-long throughline to not only establish a group of heroes and villains but to build to an inevitable no holds barred melee where all the stories come to a head. And it’s just a matter of time until Warner Bros.’ other — and more successful — mega-franchise, The Conjuring Universe, finds its Infinity War.
Deadline reports Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are reportedly set to reprise their roles as the Warrens in the upcoming third Annabelle film. While the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren have appeared briefly in archival footage in other The Conjuring Universe films, like The Nun, this will be the first spinoff from the parent franchise where they will again be major characters. And it makes sense to bring the demon-fighting duo back based on where the titular Annabelle doll ended up in the first film: in their own home.
The Warrens notoriously have an occult museum that they operated out of their home (Ed passed away a few years ago), which is featured heavily in The Conjuring 2. This will be ground zero for spook central in Annabelle 3, where the doll begins targeting Ed and Lorraine’s 10-year-old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace). With her babysitter and family, they will have to face down the doll one more time, all while Annabelle brings the evil within the Warrens’ at-home museum to life.
By bringing the Warrens finally into a non-tentpole The Conjuring Universe film, I feel like this is the first noticeable step for the TCU to get closer to its The Avengers-style monster mash. In the most recent TCU film, The Nun, Cardinal Conroy makes a passing reference to Father Burke (Demián Bichir) of being members of an unofficial group within the Catholic Church that, most likely, are called upon to fight demonic forces in the world. While the Warrens have made no reference in the past of being a part of some secret religious order, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for them to be based on their deeply rooted faith and relationship with the church. Does this mean it’s a “Supernatural S.H.I.E.L.D.”? No, but it does mean that there is still a larger story happening that we are only peeking into. And Annabelle 3 may swing that door wide open.
In The Nun we discover that Valak was a demon summoned by a priest in the Dark Ages through a portal from hell. Despite Father Burke and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) thinking they sent Valak back through the portal, it of courses resurfaces through the possessed Maurice (Jonas Bloquet), who then is exorcized by Ed and Lorraine in a retconned flashback from The Conjuring. While Valak is banished once again in The Conjuring 2, if The Nun taught us anything it’s that you can’t keep a good demon down for long, so chances are Valak is our overarching “big bad” for The Conjuring Universe. And by enlisting the help of Annabelle, as Valak did with The Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2, they can, ahem, conjure up some serious terror as they wage war in the Warrens’ home.
And what if, in this theological fight of good and evil, Valak and Annabelle free the cursed spirits Ed and Lorraine have safely guarded back into the world? They most assuredly would race to collect the objects to keep the gates of Hell closed, but they couldn’t do it alone. Perhaps they would need to enlist the help of a secret, unofficial order of the Catholic Church who also has experience battling supernatural evil, led by an aged Father Burke doing his best Max Von Sydow impression. By converging The Conjuring Universe into one big event film, not only would it be an astounding feat on the level of Destroy All Monsters, but also expand the franchise’s scope to give us more demon fighting heroes and, even better, brilliantly realized villains.