Did you know that Annabelle-Conjuring, the James Wan-produced/directed franchise, is now officially the most successful horror series of all time? Adorned with scary villains, motivated protagonists, and some beastly jump-scares, the Wan franchise, as I like to call it, provides wholesome entertainment, while also retaining creative elements of art-house filmmaking. Wan has managed to formulate a magic blueprint of balancing the two forces of commercialization and art. Without too much hassle, Wan keeps his style simple, appealing, and very effective.
The spookiness amplifies in great proportions when the ‘true-story’ based factor is considered. Ed and Lorraine Warren’s incredible journey through paranormal and vengeful apparitions become the very beating heart of the horror franchise. Even though the real-life Warrens don’t make an appearance, their spirit lingers on. ‘Annabelle Creation’ brought the series closer to a culmination. As Wan had already divulged, the series’ penultimate presentation finally managed to explain the long and terrifying history of the cursed doll. ‘The Nun’, which has already been released and trivialized to the whims of social media, draws curtains to the story, set-up by ‘Annabelle Creation’. This piece discusses the plot of the film, and the series overall, along with an explanation for the ending and how it connects with other presentations in the franchise.
The story of the cursed doll dates back almost ninety years to 1943. The Mullins lead an idyllic life at their fairly secluded ranch in the glorious Southern expanse. The family of three are like any other ordinary family until an unfortunate accident splits them up. The daughter, Bee, in an attempt to retrieve her doll, is killed in a motor accident, leaving the grieving parents heartbroken.
Twelve years forth, the parents generously invite a group of homeless girls from a recently closed orphanage. They are accompanied by Sister Charlotte, their caretaker. The girls are welcomed in the Mullins residence and instantly take a liking to the wide terrain. Janice, a girl crippled by polio, finds herself connected to the house. The girls are allocated their rooms and are given strict instructions not to go in Bee’s old room, which has been locked. The room magically unlocks itself and starts playing with Janice. She gets up unexpectedly in the middle of the night and beckons a call for a “Find Me” note. She enters Bee’s room in a bid to find the person and opens up her closet, which houses the demonic doll and a spirit, which is now let loose.
Now that the demon has been let loose, it starts tormenting Janice. First, it throws off her from the second floor after she fails at an attempt to escape using the stairlift. Janice is confined to a wheelchair as a result, with her true account falling on deaf ears (as always). The spirit, in a bid to isolate Janice, haunts her best friend, Linda, forcing Janice to relocate to a different room. As the condition deteriorates in the house, it worsens after Janice is wheeled into the abandoned warehouse by an unknown force, in the shape of Sister Charlotte, where the spirit in Bee’s form vomits a projectile into Janice, successfully possessing her. The noticeable change in behavior is attributed to the inexplicable events, with no one really paying attention. It is only when Linda reveals to Samuel that Janice had unlocked Bee’s room that the matter is considered seriously. After this revelation, Samuel is confronted by Janice, who takes the shape of the demon and proceeds to vanquish Samuel from the face of the earth.
Linda notices Janice’s increasing attachment to the doll, and one night when she is sleeping, Linda sneaks the doll away from Janice. Charlotte notices it and proceeds to help Linda, who almost gets dragged into the well where she is about to throw the doll. Charlotte, now disturbed and looking to solve the mystery, beckons the disfigured Esther to shed light on the strange events going on in the house. She then proceeds to tell how she and Samuel summoned an entity to reconnect them with Bee, which turned out to demonic. Even though they were reunited with their daughter, the two invite the spirit to possess the doll. The demon attacks Esther one night and gouges out her left eye. The couple called upon two priests who lock the doll away in Bee’s closet and covered it up with pages from the Bible. The demon attacks Esther again, this time brutally killing her, and knocking Charlotte against the wall.
The girls frantically run out of the house, except for Linda, who is now being chased by the demon in the form of Janice. Charlotte is also trapped inside the house and tracks Linda. The other girls face their own problems in the warehouse, with various figures coming to life. Anyway, as Janice frantically chases Linda around the house, she and Charlotte are successful in locking away Janice and the doll in Bee’s closet and wait outside for the police to arrive. When they do arrive, they discover that Janice has run away, creating a hole in the wall, leaving behind the doll. We then see Janice now in an orphanage house going by the name Annabelle.
Valak and Answering Who Tricked Janice
‘The Nun’, which released this year, saw a stand-alone movie for one of the most popular characters in the series. Valak has been present in almost every installment of the franchise and is an incomprehensible part really to any haunting in the Conjuring-verse. Inadvertently, Valak finds her way in ‘Creation’ on at least three occasions. And she isn’t mentioned even once! I’ll just point them out before answering who really tricked Janice into retrieving the doll from the closet.
We first catch a verifiable glimpse of the demonic nun when Sister Charlotte shows Samuel a photograph of her and four other nuns at Cârța Monastery in Romania, the setting for ‘The Nun’. When the light catches the photograph just right, Samuel comments on something we all see—asking Sister Charlotte who the mysterious, ghost-like figure standing behind the other nuns is. Sister Charlotte, confused, claims she doesn’t know.
The second time we catch Valak at work is obvious. While sitting alone in her wheelchair outside, Janice is pushed by some kind of evil-looking nun-like figure into the barn, where she’s subsequently possessed by the Ram. Since we know Sister Charlotte was inside the Mullins’ house at the time, and since the figure looked like a nun, it is safe to assume it was Valak who dragged Janice to the barn. It would seem odd as to how Valak is present everywhere. Well, that is something you can ask Wan if and when you see him. The third Valak spotting takes place in “the second post-credits scene, in which we witness ‘The Nun’ walking through the eerie hall of what is almost certainly a monastery, blowing out torches as it progresses towards the camera”.
Now, moving on to Janice. Sister Charlotte has a very understated role in the entire movie. For most parts, she might seem to be insignificant and to an extent, clueless. But, she is slid in for a very specific purpose. And it becomes clear as she shows Samuel the photo from her “monastery” days. Everything is put into motion by an unknown entity at work that wasn’t present in the house. Yes, you guessed it right. Charlotte brought Valak with her to the house, who had an important role in many major events in the film. The staircase; wheeling Janice in the barn; and the most important task, unlocking the forbidden room. It might seem very odd why Valak would help the demon in the house. But we don’t know anything about the evil community. We don’t know their etiquette and mannerisms. Maybe they beleive in helping each other rather than rely on another race to set them free all the time. A leaf out of the book, no?
The ending of ‘Annabelle Creation’ is not important in many ways. The reason for the same is that this movie is an origins movie. It is a prequel to a film that had already been released. So in terms of furthering the storyline and the character universe, this film has not much significance. But, it is important because it helps establish many things. ‘Annabelle’, that released a couple years before ‘Creation’, told how the cursed doll was again brought in the picture and the beast that was dormant for many years woke up yearning for a human host again. ‘Creation’s ending was threefold: we see a possessed Janice being locked up in Annabelle’s closet and her subsequent escape; then, we see she has relocated to an orphanage under the alias of Annabelle and she gets adopted by a family; thirdly, we see the skip in timeline by 12 years and how she and her murderous cult fanatic boyfriend murder her parents and infest the doll again.
Coming to the first part of the ending, it really seems odd how Janice could have escaped the Bible-covered closet and went through tons of thick concrete walls. If the doll wasn’t potent enough to escape despite being powered by the demon, how did it become able to do so? A probable, and the most likely answer, is that the demon finally found a human host that amplified its powers. It was the final push that enabled him to effectuate his devious plan. It is interesting, though, how Wan shifts the importance from the doll to Janice or Annabelle.
Throughout the movie, we see the doll as an overpowering companion to Janice. Any scene that had the two together was highlighted by the doll and not Janice. And given the history that the iconic porcelain creation has held in the franchise history, it was surprising to see Wan departing from including the doll as an important condiment in the ending. Either way, the doll finds its way back to the fore with the Higgins, who were the family around which ‘Annabelle’ was based. The second part of the ending sees Janice being adopted by a family, which she’ll eventually murder. A fun fact: the doll that is gifted to her in the orphanage is the original doll from Warren’s original museum. It was extracted in an exorcism the pair performed and still rests in a glass box, blessed twice every week by a priest for visitors.
David Sandberg, who directed the movie, was reluctant to go ahead as he was concerned with being attached to the series future installments and restricted in his approach to the story. This doll is probably his way of saying he was the eventual boss pulling the strings! Anyway, so the people we see adopting Annabelle in the scene are the same people who are murdered in the starting of ‘Annabelle’, or later in ‘Creation’. The exact reasons for their actions are unknown to the extent of cult activities. The doll, which is a ubiquitous presence in the series, assumes primary importance in the last sequence of ‘Creation’ when we see Annabelle sacrifice her life and transfer the devilish portions to the doll via her blood. The timeline might seem to be a bit confusing, but once you know it, there are no confusions about the structure.
The events in ‘The Conjuring’ take place in the year 1971, when we see the first glimpses of the doll, safely packed away in the glass box in the museum. We see two college girls who first create the legend of the Warrens in the universe, who subsequently take care of the doll. ‘Annabelle’ takes place in the year 1967, four years prior to ‘The Conjuring’. The ending of the former sees a mother buy the doll for her daughter Debbie, from ‘The Conjuring’, indicating that the film that birthed the universe didn’t originally revolve around the doll. ‘Creation’ takes us several years back, to the 1950’s, when we see the dollmaker Samuel Mullin creating the doll.
The story about this ‘backstory’ is interesting and was clarified in an interview by Peter Safran. “We made the first Annabelle as a standalone movie,” Safran explained to CinemaBlend, “[and] knew we’d made a successful movie. You start thinking about where can you go with it, because it’s a great character. It was actually [writer] Gary Dauberman … it was his idea to go back and give the real origin story of Annabelle. And I think it is feathered into [Annabelle], in a really clever and innovative manner at the end of [Creation]. I think people will be really satisfied with the way that they dovetail together.”
‘Annabelle Creation’ is a solid effort, mixing with dexterity Wan’s manically successful hew and vague semblances from the brilliant first film, The Conjuring. Even though Sandberg and crew utilize almost every trope and cliché in horror, throughout the movie, they utilize them so well, they deserve heaps of praise. Because, at the end of the day, it’s the execution that truly matters. There are several moments of sheer, unrelenting dread. And these scenes are in no way undercut by a silly line of dialogue. All of it makes ‘Annabelle Creation’ a layered horror experience. It works well as a standalone movie and even better as another haunting chapter in one of the most terrifying and significant horror franchises of our times.