James Wan radically reinvented the horror genre with "The Conjuring." After the success of "Insidious," his second foray into supernatural horror following the poorly received "Dead Silence" (which was unfair -- "Dead Silence" is good), Wan dove into more mature, classic horror territory. As Alonso Duralde succinctly put it in his review for The Wrap, "'The Conjuring' doesn't try to reinvent the tropes of horror movies ... but Fred Astaire didn't invent tap-dancing, either." A classic haunted house tale directed with modern verve, "The Conjuring" was an unprecedented success, inspiring an entire cinematic universe that now spans eight movies, with several more to come.
However, as successful as the movies are, there are still a number of nagging inconsistencies. While the first "Conjuring" was uniquely grounded in the real world, the series slowly grew more fantastical. As the specters increased in size, stature, and motive, so too did the inaccuracies. Here, we'll review the 10 things that make the least amount of sense in "The Conjuring" universe, including "The Curse of La Llorona," despite what director Michael Chaves has to say about its canonicity.
Lorraine Doesn't Originally Sense The Witch's Totem In The Devil Made Me Do It
"The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" was met with a mixed reception. While some critics and audiences were thrilled to see the famed Warrens, earnestly played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, return to the big screen, others feared the series had run its course. One of its principal faults is that "The Devil Made Me Do It," as sequels are wont to do, opts to go bigger at the expense of what made the series so successful in the first place. The scares are bigger and louder, the violence ickier, and the ghosts so bombastic that the franchise now seems desperate for an exorcism of its own.
Going bigger, too, risks revealing the seams, and "The Devil Made Me Do It" has several. The most egregious sin is the inconsistent use of Lorraine Warrens' clairvoyance. Lorraine has made use of her power several times during the series, whether exploring family photos or sensing where a demon might strike. In "The Devil Made Me Do It," Lorraine is inexplicably unaware that the house where she recently exorcised a demon has a witch's totem buried beneath it. It's never explained how this curse eluded her. There's some mumbo jumbo about how the curse is powerful enough to dodge Lorraine's clairvoyant peculiarities, but it seems like something she should have sensed.
Everyone Keeps Annabelle Around
This is a sin that applies in equal measure to "The Conjuring," "Annabelle," "Annabelle: Creation," and "Annabelle Comes Home." The real life Annabelle doll is an allegedly cursed Raggedy Ann doll. Keeping a cursed object around is certainly never a good idea, but one can easily see why the real Annabelle might have made its way into someone's home. The Annabelle of "The Conjuring" cinematic universe is an uncanny, ghastly porcelain nightmare. The doll has no redeeming qualities, even when measured against the admittedly low standards held by doll connoisseurs. This doll is scary.
Yet, as scary as the doll is, "The Conjuring" universe repeatedly wants audiences to believe that this doll is not only normal, but actively, fervently desired. Nurses in "The Conjuring" sought it out before their haunting, and the two dollmakers (Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia) make it for their daughter, not realizing that, cursed or not, Annabelle is unequivocally terrifying. Nice gift, Samuel and Esther Mullins. Worse still, given how much Ed and Lorraine Warren prevaricate about how evil the doll is, it never really makes sense that they would keep it in their house. Ensconced in papal glass, the evil is ostensibly contained, although after eight movies in which the evil is very decidedly not contained, one wonders why they wouldn't at least consider an alternative.
Patricia Blames Anna, Not La Llorona, For Her Kids' Deaths
"The Curse of La Llorona" is the lowest rated installment in "The Conjuring" franchise. That might account for the series' creators' retroactive desire to remove it from "The Conjuring" timeline altogether. The entry was plagued by controversy even before release, most of which was on account of whitewashing a legend central to Mexican culture. Any myopic sins might have been forgiven had "The Curse of La Llorona" not been a retread of scares the audience had seen five times before. While La Llorona, played by Marisol Ramierz, is incredibly realized, the scares are inconsistent and tame.
The worst of it, though, is just how contrived its setup is to begin with. Patricia Alvarez's (Patricia Velásquez) two children are targeted and killed by La Llorona, an event social services dismiss as neglect and abuse. It's bad enough that it's never fully explained why Alvarez's children were targeted in the first place. Yet, after her children's deaths, Patricia blames Anna (Linda Cardellini), the social worker who first took Patricia's children away. She summons La Llorona and has the creature target Anna and her children so that Anna might feel the same pain she does. The entire thing is predicated on Patricia's reluctance to admit that locking children in a closet on account of a ghost isn't something that a social worker would reasonably believe. Worse, Anna is never outright hostile or incredulous. She wants to help Patricia figure out what's going on.
Lorraine's Climactic Exorcism In The Conjuring
Love heals all. Well, it doesn't, but if the ending to "The Conjuring" is to be believed, all that Regan MacNeil needed was some love and perspective. At the end of "The Conjuring," Lorraine realizes that Bathsheba (Joseph Bishara), the specter haunting a rural Rhode Island farmhouse, has been possessing mothers on her land and making them kill their children. Another possession is in full swing when Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) absconds with one of her daughters, Christine (Joey King), to the house, intent on sacrificing her to Satan. Ed, Lorraine, and officer Brad (John Brotherton) get there in time and manage to free Christine and tie Carolyn to a chair.
Ed must expel Bathsheba from Carolyn and begins a full-borne exorcism. It's for naught, though, as Carolyn quickly escapes and chases after her other daughter, April (Kyla Deaver). She's completely possessed by this point, armed with a pair of scissors that she intends to use in the worst possible way. Just as Carolyn catches April and brandishes the shears, Lorraine grabs hold of Carolyn. She begs Carolyn to remember the good times and to break Bathsheba's hold from within. In moments, it works, and love alone -- not Bibles or rituals or Latin incantations -- frees Carolyn's soul. It's a poignant and sweet moment, if a bit saccharine, but also radically undermines everything that came before. Why is love alone sufficient?
Evelyn Sacrifices Herself For Mia
The climax of "Annabelle" is arguably the most egregious in the entire series. Midway through, housewife Mia Form (yes, a play on Mia Farrow) is sufficiently plagued by the haunted Annabelle doll. Desperate for help, she solicits the assistance of Evelyn (Alfre Woodard), a neighbor and the proprietor of a local bookstore. Through no fault of Woodard herself, Evelyn's character leans heavily into the "magical negro" stereotype. Replete with knowledge of demonology, curses, possession, and the unknown, Evelyn's primary role seems to be delivering exposition to the white protagonists.
That, though, isn't even the worst of it. In the end, the demon makes its intent clear -- it plans to steal Mia's newborn daughter and entice Mia into giving up her soul. Mia is initially willing to sacrifice herself for her daughter. However, as she plans to step out the window of her apartment with the Annabelle doll in her hands, Evelyn arrives. Feeling guilty about the death of her daughter years prior, Evelyn decides to jump in Mia's place, sacrificing both her life and eternal soul for a woman she barely knows. Intended as a profound act of sacrifice, the entire thing feels scuzzy. The racial politics are misplaced, the act itself is arbitrary, and it doesn't even consider that the demon might not want Evelyn's soul -- after all, it's been targeting Mia this entire time. It's an ugly misstep in a movie that simply didn't need it.
The Entirety Of The Nun
"The Nun," as directed by Corin Hardy, is the most visually striking entry in "The Conjuring" universe. A throwback to the Gothic tentpoles of yesteryear, "The Nun" is "The Conjuring" by way of Hammer Horror and Roger Corman. Casting Vera Farmiga's sister, Taissa Farmiga, was an inspired choice, and if it has nothing else, "The Nun" at least feels sufficiently dangerous. The characters face real threats as they explore an abandoned, haunted abbey plagued by Bonnie Aarons' terrifying Valek, who first appeared in Wan's "The Conjuring 2." It's clear from the get-go that whatever the characters do, Valek is poised to return.
In order to defeat Valek, it is theorized that the portal from which she was released must be sealed with the literal blood of Christ. Luckily, a vial of Christ's blood is being held in the abbey, and the rift is only a short walk away in the basement. It's bad enough that Valek, having offed the entire abbey, is curiously ineffective at stopping them. Considerably more sinful, Farmiga's Sister Irene is successful. The rift is sealed and Valek is dramatically swept into a vortex and sealed beneath the abbey. Cue the happy ending.
Only, it isn't happy. There's a final twist showing Jonas Bloquet's subsequent possession by Valek, rendering the entire thing moot. It makes no sense. If Valek is still around and capable of possession, why bother with the dramatic demise? Valek should know better.
Despite Their History, The Warrens Quickly Dismiss Penny Hodgson
"The Conjuring 2" is arguably better than the original. Though it's more fantastical -- Crooked Man, anyone? — the scares are more frequent and meaner. With a runtime over two hours, "The Conjuring 2" is a haunted house movie with a legacy as enduring as its ghosts. It's unfortunate, then, that the core conflict of Wan's follow-up is so arbitrary.
"The Conjuring 2" stars a shakily-accented Frances O'Connor as a cockney mother of three who lives in a haunted house largely paid for by the British government. When she claims that the house is haunted, the Warrens are called in. Franka Potente of "Run Lola Run" fame is the chief human antagonist, a skeptic convinced that O'Connor's Peggy Hodgson is manufacturing the entire thing to secure better housing.
Initially, the Warrens are unconvinced, although Lorraine makes a recurrent note of her inability to sense anything awry. It culminates in a staged incident caught on tape, one that compels the Warrens to leave. Later, of course, Lorraine learns that "The Nun" villain Valek had blocked her clairvoyance, but otherworldly sense or not, it feels out of character for these two to so easily dismiss someone's claims.
Carol Fixes The Lights Instead Of Running In Annabelle: Creation
"Annabelle: Creation" is very scary. "Lights Out" director David F. Sandberg delivered the most dangerous Conjuring universe entry at the time with a vicious, no-holds-barred yarn about orphans and possessed porcelain dolls. The scares are unconventional for the series, with Sandberg making use of a diverse array of possessed haunts. One of the most effective scenes involves orphan Carol (Grace Fulton) escaping to a barn.
After a gaggle of girls lock themselves in a car, they're assailed by a possessed scarecrow and flee. In the barn, Carol catches sight of the scarecrow again and is rightly petrified. Then, the bulbs attached to the lights on the ceiling slowly unscrew as a demon manifests in the corner. Rather than flee, Carol keeps the scarecrow within her line of sight and proceeds to ... fix the lights. The scarecrow itself has no business being in there -- the only plausible explanation is demonic activity -- yet Carol reasons that it's safer to stay and play electrician than it is to bolt right out the door. It's sheer lunacy.
The Warrens Hire A Teen Babysitter When Their House Is Full Of Cursed Objects
"Annabelle Comes Home," while not the scariest entry in the Conjuring cinematic universe, might very well be the most fun. A cross between "Annabelle" and "Night at the Museum," it was enormously successful, grossing $231 million worldwide against a $27 million budget. It stars Mckenna Grace as the Warrens' daughter Judy, replacing Sterling Jerins from the previous two "Conjuring" movies. When the Warrens head out of town, they hire Madison Iseman's Mary Ellen to babysit. That alone makes little sense. With a house full of accursed objects, it's reasonable to assume that the Warrens might have someone other than a high-school girl on deck.
Teenagers do as teenagers do, though, and shortly after arriving, Mary Ellen's friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife) crashes the party, intent on gaining access to the artifact room in hopes of contacting her late father. In doing so, she unleashes Annabelle, who uses her power to possess sundry cursed artifacts, including haunted coins, a board game, and a sinister television set. "Annabelle Comes Home" has a frightening ferryman, werewolves, and homicidal bridal gowns. Though none of it is taken especially seriously, it's hard to move past the cursed elephant in the room: With it being this easy to unleash a demonic horde, why run the risk of getting a babysitter at all?
The Demons Never Kill Anyone
The demons in the "Conjuring" universe often have the basest of desires. Like their predecessor Pazuzu, they're often there to wreak havoc, menace some rural folk, and just barely miss out on their chance at securing a human soul. As with all cinematic supernatural showdowns, however, the rules guiding their behavior are arbitrary and unclear, serving the plot more than any semblance of narrative fidelity. These demons attack and chase, yet they never bother to kill the people who stand in their way.
They're clearly capable of it. "Annabelle Creation" and "The Nun," for instance, have considerably more deaths than the other entries in the franchise. Yet, even though Annabelle is keen on ripping her own mother in half, she's content to let nuns and orphaned teenagers go free, happy to rough them up some but never taking it any further.
If the Conjuring franchise has any glaring flaw, it's precisely this: The stakes are never clear. While that was fine for the first few entries, after eight movies, the supernatural rules need to have some degree of internal consistency. Unfortunately, there simply isn't any. In cleansing Bathsheba and Valek, haunted games, and monstrous wolves, the Conjuring universe might have inadvertently exorcised logic as well.
The post 10 Things in The Conjuring Universe That Make No Sense appeared first on /Film.