James Wan and David F. Sandberg are filmmakers currently at the centre of two highly anticipated, relatively new cinematic universes – the individual nature of which could not be more different from each other. One is the DC Extended Universe – with Wan at the helm of Aquaman, and David F. Sandberg set to direct Shazam! – and the other is The Conjuring universe, which has just unleashed Annabelle: Creation into cinemas.
The main difference between the two is that The Conjuring universe is an entirely original creative property. There are no comic books upon which these films are based – although there are some allegedly “true stories.” That this horror film universe is on track to become one of the more profitable in recent history means that James Wan – who directed the first two, core Conjuring movies – is clearly onto something in terms of compelling narrative.
Now, in a recent conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, the writer-director explained that this franchise idea was actually something he was thinking about even in the earliest stages.
“Very early on, I wanted to call the Conjuring films The Warren Files. And so that was going to be a more encompassing sort of umbrella name for this whole world. We didn’t end up going with that title, obviously, but I guess that spirit has always sort of lingered around.”
The interesting thing about this rapidly expanding film universe is that, as its main architect, Wan now finds himself faced with the same conundrums as those that have built the DC and Marvel universes – which is the question of how much oversight and control is exerted over the vision of incoming directors.
“I really want to keep that classical sort of old-school storytelling going on with all these films. Those are the kind of horror movies that I really love, and so I want to make sure that all these films within the Conjuring world feel like they came from the same place. I don’t want them feeling too disjointed from a visual standpoint.”
David F. Sandberg, on the other hand, has recently delivered Conjuring spinoff Annabelle: Creation, and reflected on his experience of stepping into an ongoing series.
“The only sort of mandate … was to put in these little references to the other movies. But otherwise, it was very free.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, it has to look and feel like a Conjuring movie. It was more just that I [already] like the look and feel of the Conjuring movies, so it was a good fit.”
For his part, Wan is continuing to plot the character and story arcs for further universe expansion – including ideas for The Nun 2, should 2018’s Conjuring spinoff The Nun find box office success.
“I do know where potentially, if The Nun works out, where The Nun 2 could lead to and how that ties back to Lorraine’s story that we’ve set up with the first two Conjurings and make it all come all full circle.”
The “Lorraine” to whom Wan refers here is Lorraine Warren, played by Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 – confirming that the director obviously seeks to run a tight ship and keep the connections between these spinoffs clear and concise. Whatever those plans are ultimately revealed to be, it’s certainly going to be fascinating to find out.