Things go bump in the night frequently in "The Conjuring” universe, namely thanks to folks like the Crooked Man, the Nun and that creepy Annabelle – and, unfortunately for the ghostbusting couple at the heart of the movie series, they’re all hauntingly connected.
Headed up by James Wan, “The Conjuring” films have become a horror version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with spinoffs, characters who cross over between movies, and a couple of primary do-gooders in real-life paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga).
The true “Conjuring” MVP, though? That’d be Annabelle, the macabre doll/demonic conduit who’s appeared in more films than Ed’s guitar skills. The most dangerous item in the Warrens’ room of fantastically freaky artifacts returns for her third “solo” movie “Annabelle Comes Home” (in theaters Wednesday).
Annabelle: The 'true' story of the evil doll star
'The Nun': Why there's creepy appeal in unholy horror
Summer scares: 10 horror films we're freaking out about this season
These fright fests – which, interestingly, lean very female in terms of protagonists and antagonists – scare up decent box office, too: Four of the six so far have topped $100 million. Of course there’s more to come, with “The Conjuring 3” (out Sept. 11, 2020) now filming and a sequel to “The Nun” in development, as is a spinoff with “Conjuring 2” creeper Crooked Man.
To mark the release of the latest, here are all the “Conjuring” movies, ranked from worst to best:
7. ‘The Nun’ (2018)
The 1950s-set prequel is an early story of Valak (Bonnie Aarons), the demon nun that stalks Lorraine in “The Conjuring 2,” and the priest (Demian Bichir) and the young novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) who encounter her while investigating a suicide at a Romanian abbey. There are hints of religious mystery and old-school adventure, but it’s a mostly dull and arduous entry that totally wastes Aarons’ chilling villainess of the cloth.
6. ‘Annabelle’ (2014)
On paper, it draws some “Rosemary's Baby” comparisons with a pregnant woman battling a malevolent force and the involvement of a devil-worshipping cult. If only it held a candle to that classic: The first “Annabelle” sics the evil doll on a young couple (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) and their baby in 1967, with Father Perez (Tony Amendola) stepping in to try and exorcise the porcelain menace, yet this is a clichéd disappointment rather than good unholy terror.
5. ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ (2019)
Its connection to the rest of the “Conjuring” saga is glancing, with a cameo from Amendola’s Perez (and a flashback-y glimpse of Annabelle), and overall the film is a so-so tale of a widow (Linda Cardellini) and her kids beset by a supernatural entity. It’s a shame because "La Llorona" mines Mexican folklore to unleash a ghostly weeping woman in a wedding dress (Marisol Ramirez), whose terrifying look and sinister intentions rank right up there with the franchise’s best baddies (or worst, as the case may be).
4. ‘Annabelle: Creation’ (2017)
The possessed plaything gets an origin story here, as we go back to the ‘50s with a dose of childhood tragedy and some young scream queens (or is it princesses?). Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson are orphan girls who come to live in a house where Annabelle’s taken up residence, which means a lot of sleepless nights for everyone involved. “Creation” offers a few decent scares but mainly a lot of familiar tropes in a forgettable package.
3. ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ (2019)
Third time’s the occult charm: The doll’s new disco-era flick features the Warren family but puts the focus on young daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace). She has a bit of her mom’s innate sense for the otherworldly, which helps when the kid and her babysitters (Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife) have to survive one crazy night: Annabelle is inadvertently taken out of her case and lets loose the evils of the artifact room, including a hellhound and the frightening Ferryman. It’s the funniest of the “Conjuring” series and an ode to ‘70s and ‘80s teen horror flicks.
2. ‘The Conjuring’ (2013)
When the first “Conjuring” hit, it was like a breath of cold, musty, goosebump-inducing air – in a good way! The Warrens are called to a cursed Rhode Island farmhouse to dig into the supernatural goings-on that are creating a regular nightmare for the resident family. Wan does wonders with camera angles, panning shots, sound effects and other old-school techniques to create an unnerving atmosphere, balanced by the uplifting, grounded personalities of Ed and especially Lorraine.
1. ‘The Conjuring 2’ (2016)
Both main “Conjuring” movies are quite good – especially compared to the spinoffs – but No. 2 rules by tapping a religious vein similar to the original “The Exorcist.” The sequel mines two real Warren cases, the infamous Amityville Horror and the Enfield Poltergeist, and the latter gives rise to the main plot of a possessed 11-year-old girl (Madison Wolfe). Freakier than the first film, “The Conjuring 2” turns “This Old Man” into a whistled theme of impending doom as one of its many ghoulish delights.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: All 'The Conjuring' horror movies, ranked (including new 'Annabelle Comes Home')