Ten years after the first The Conjuring movie hit theater screens, producer James Wan presents another chapter in the long-running franchise — The Nun II. Cursed with mixed reviews, this latest thrill fest delivers everything Conjuring fans want: jump scares, eerie atmosphere, and lore that dives deeper than your average horror pic.
Where does The Nun II rank in the grand The Conjuring Universe? I’m glad you asked because I’ve reviewed the 9-episode saga and ranked them from worst to best.
9) The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
The Conjuring Universe never fails to provide the requisite scares those creepy trailers promise, but often at the expense of story and character. There’s a rich lore waiting to be mined in The Curse of La Llorona, but director Michael Chaves barely scratches the surface. When the third act arrives, it’s hard to care about the wild happenings because not enough time is spent developing the characters or story.
Still, there’s no denying the film is sporadically fun. Linda Cardellini does what she can in an underwritten role, the production design is appropriately gothic, and the final confrontation with the “Weeping Woman” delivers a few chills. You could skip this one and not miss a beat.
8) The Nun (2018)
The Nun may not provide the smartest thrills in The Conjuring Universe, but somehow, it works as a fleeting piece of horror fantasy. Call it bottom-of-the-barrel horror, a picture that often resembles an extended episode of Goosebumps rather than, say, The Exorcist.
Director Corin Hardy leans too heavily on cheap scare tactics to the point where the viewer becomes immune to the absurd amount of jump scares, particularly in the final act. The Nun is also too dark and brooding for its own good, with bland characters standing around darkly lit rooms mumbling exposition between the numerous set pieces.
Yet, the pic is still worth watching, particularly with a young crowd who will likely enjoy the nonstop jolts and ignore the faulty plot mechanics. Don’t expect The Exorcist and you’ll have a good time.
7) Annabelle (2014)
Dark and foreboding, Annabelle works overtime to thrill audiences and occasionally reaches spectacular heights. The finale alone is worth the price of admission.
On a negative note, this is the type of picture that you watch and immediately forget. It’s a rollercoaster that delivers the goods but lacks the necessary substance to make it stick.
Too bad, because I had a fun time with Annabelle on my latest rewatch. I’ve seen it several times but would be hard-pressed to remember any crucial plot points. I forgot Alfre Woodard was in the damn thing! In that way, Annabelle is the type of horror film you can appreciate repeatedly because each viewing feels like the first.
6) The Nun II (2023)
Like the original The Nun, The Nun II doesn’t dive deep enough into its subject matter to offer anything more than surface-level thrills. Yet, Michael Chaves moves the pic along so confidently that such criticisms are moot.
Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, and Bonnie Aarons return for more ghastly mayhem with that creepy-ass nun, Valak. The scares are numerous but effective, and crowds should get a kick out of the wild third act that pulls out all the stops. It’s nothing genre fans have never seen before in better films, but you could do far worse on a mid-September weekend.
5) Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
The third entry in the Annabelle franchise gets kudos for giving audiences exactly what they expect — no more, no less. Here, director Gary Dauberman posits a group of characters in a haunted house, spends 30 minutes showing off all the creepy devices he will use to scare you, and then lets loose in the second half.
Surprisingly, this simplistic approach works in the film’s favor. Here we have a film designed to entertain the masses, featuring a plucky cast and a clever array of horror props. Characters slowly (and stupidly) walk into dark rooms alone, knowingly mess with cursed objects, and behave irrationally in pivotal moments, but that’s part of Annabelle’s charm. It’s all utter nonsense and doesn’t move the franchise in any new directions, but if you’re looking for the type of scares that’ll make you scream and laugh, Annabelle Comes Home is flawless.
4) The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)
Plenty were disappointed with the third Conjuring pic. While I admit it’s not up to par with the previous two, this threequel at least applies a fresh coat of paint to the series. Storywise, it’s all the same — a demon possesses someone, necessitating an investigation by the Warrens, yada, yada, yada.
Still, director Michael Chaves takes a harsher approach, relying on unsettling violence over drawn-out scares to obliterate your soul. It’s all still dark corridors and red-eyed ghouls capable of contorting their bodies in squeamish ways, but the grit and grime splatters off the screen on this go-round. From the wild opening sequence involving a possessed young boy, Chaves practically dares you to look away. I dug it.
3) Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Director David F. Sandberg lends horror talents to the Annabelle franchise in this superior sequel that pushes all the right buttons and expands the lore in unique ways. The film delves into the backstory of the creepy Annabelle, exploring the origins of the malevolent spirit inhabiting the doll and adding layers to the overall narrative.
Jump scares abound but are expertly designed and effective in all the right ways, primarily due to the creepy, isolated farmhouse setting that provides an extra layer of terror. The characters feel more fleshed out, so you root for (or against) them during the pivotal third act. In other words, there’s an abundance of heart and soul to go with the madcap, bone-breaking carnage, rendering Annabelle: Creation one of the more substantial entries in The Conjuring Universe.
2) The Conjuring (2013)
The one that started it all, James Wan’s The Conjuring, remains a compelling piece of horror that’ll keep you up at night thanks to its expertly designed scares and incredibly bleak atmosphere.
Centered around real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), The Conjuring details the strange happenings surrounding a family in Harrisville, Rhode Island. A demon has latched onto the Perron clan and eventually possesses one of the children, requiring a visit from the Warrens.
It’s all an excuse for Wan to craft wicked set pieces, notably a sequence in which poor Lili Taylor plays a game of hide and clap with a rather mischievous demon. Drawing from films such as Poltergeist and The Exorcist, Wan creates a modern horror classic that feels real enough to keep you peering into those dark shadows lurking in the corners of your home. It’s a bloody good time.
1) The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Doubling down on everything that made the original Conjuring a compelling horror ride, The Conjuring 2 is a rarity in the horror field — a film so competently made that it feels completely removed from the (mostly) hollow sequels that followed. Call it The Dark Knight of the horror genre.
Working off another true-life tale centered around the Warrens, the sequel now sees our paranormal investigators battling another demon, this time in London. Wan expands the lore, creating intriguing new monsters and characters, but never loses sight of his main protagonists. Ed and Lorraine may never evolve beyond a devoted husband and wife team, but Farmiga and Wilson infuse them with enough heart and soul to make you care about their well-being, even as they’re going toe-to-toe with evil nuns and cockney ghouls.
Shout out to that Crooked Man sequence and an unsettling ending brimming with all kinds of tricks and treats. A thrilling, enthralling, brilliant piece of horror.