James Wan is dreaming of creating his own shared universe ala Marvel, and he seems to be well on his way, only his doesn’t involve superheroes and is deeply rooted in the horror genre. The umbrella title of said universe is The Conjuring, and so far it consists of a pair of entries in the main series (with a third in development), the 2014 spin-off Annabelle and the just-released sequel, Annabelle: Creation. But, wait, there’s more!
There are a pair of spin-offs from The Conjuring 2 on the way. First up is next year’s The Nun, featuring demon nun (how often have you seen those two words used together?) Valek; and in development is The Crooked Man, with the focus on the character of the same name. And, given the initial success that Annabelle: Creation has gotten, odds are strong there will be a third entry in that series.
Of the new film Google describes, “Former toy maker Sam Mullins and his wife Esther are happy to welcome a nun and six orphaned girls into their California farmhouse. Years earlier, the couple lost their seven-year-old daughter Annabelle in a tragic car accident. Terror soon strikes when one of the girls finds a seemingly innocent doll that seems to have a life of its own.”
Directing Annabelle: Creation is David F. Sandberg (whose next film is going to be the DC superhero adventure Shazam!), who admits that part of the appeal of the project for him is the fact that it was a standalone film, and not just a repeat of what had come before. At the same time, he points out, anyone looking for it could see how the films fit together.
“This was something I could make my own; it wouldn’t have been very fun to just do the first movie again,” he says. “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.”
As far as he’s concerned, the most challenging aspect of the film was making the Annabelle doll actually scary for the audience. “You don’t want her walking around like Chucky,” Sandberg says, “so we had to find 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.”
With Annabelle, Chucky (the latest film, Cult Of Chucky, is being released October 3rd) and others of their ilk, there seems to be an ongoing fascination with deadly dolls. The real question, of course, is why.
“I’m not sure,” he laughs. “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.”
As to his intentions for the film, Sandberg comments, “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. The thing you have to be careful of is 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.”
Annabelle: Creation is now playing in theaters.