The “Conjuring” Universe is now seven films strong – with an eighth (“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”) on the way in September. The two main “Conjuring” entries and the “Annabelle” trilogy comprise five of the films. That leaves the two oddballs, which I’ll review here: “The Nun” (2018) and “The Curse of La Llorona” (2019).
The “Conjuring” series is unusual among horror franchises in that its core stories come from true events – in this case from the lives of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson). Adding outside intrigue is the fact that many people doubt the validity of the supernatural, on which the Warrens made their living. “Annabelle Comes Home” (2019), now on HBO, acknowledges this issue, as the Warrens are the subject of a “Heroes or Hoax?” newspaper report in the wake of the events of “The Conjuring” (2013).
Iwatched the trailers of some notable summer movies so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the picture:
For about $370, you can get an Annabelle doll from Mezco Toys, and unlike most movie memorabilia, this piece won’t just sit around and collect dust. If it’s anything like the real deal, it’ll move around your house, offering daily surprises and laughs.
These were my 10 favorite movies of 2016:
1. “The Witch” – This horror film set in Colonial America delivers a striking sense of time and place (so much so that you might want to put the subtitles on to grasp the language), with life-threatening poverty as an omnipresent invisible character. On top of that, it invokes another layer of foreboding horror: The religion-fomented fears are so real to this family – including Anya Taylor-Joy in a breakout turn as teenager Thomasin — that they become real to us. Against this backdrop, the idea of “living deliciously” as a witch becomes a viable — although still creepy as hell — escape hatch. (Full-length review)
What makes “The Conjuring 2” one of the year’s best horror movies is that it’s not just a horror movie. When it is, it’s really scary. Writer-director James Wan – the modern maestro who launched this franchise in 2013 – is well-established for capturing the 1970s-style horror aesthetic, and he opens “Conjuring 2” with a tense scene of Lorraine Warren (“Bates Motel’s” Vera Farmiga) flow-walking as a man murders his family in the tradition of “In Cold Blood.” But once we’re suitably on edge, Wan makes this into a movie about love and family, while also peppering in a sense of mystery.
Here are the 10 movies I think look the best out of the summer lineup:
“Elstree 1976” (May 6) – This Kickstarter-funded documentary features interviews with “A New Hope” (and “The Empire Strikes Back,” as Jeremy Bulloch is featured) supporting actors, convention clips, re-enactments and archival footage. It looks like a treasure trove for Lucas-era “Star Wars” buffs.
Here are some movies and TV shows on my radar in the year ahead:
“The 5th Wave” (movie, Jan. 22) – Chloe Grace Moretz stars in this “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” riff. While the preview – as with most movies nowadays — gives too much away, this still looks like a compelling family survival drama amid an alien invasion. “It Follows” breakthrough star Maika Monroe is in the cast, too, and she’ll also be in the year’s other big alien film, “Independence Day: Resurgence” (see below).
These were my 10 favorite movies of 2013:
1. “The Way Way Back” — The title could refer to filmmakers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash looking back at their childhoods in the 1980s or to the rear-facing station wagon seat where Liam James is relegated on family trips. James breaks out among a talented cast just with a moody look, but if put-upon teens aren’t your cup of tea, check out the always-great Sam Rockwell as the kid’s makeshift father figure during his summer job at a water park. (Full review.)
I kept the lessons of Hollywood horror movies in mind as I hunted for my new apartment. I like living in a somewhat older place, because those have more character, but I don’t want so much character that doors slam of their own volition, inhuman groans come from the walls after dark, or blood drips from the faucets. As such, I picked a nice 1971-built unit where the fridge doors are backwards, the air conditioner is a little loud and the bathtub faucet drips. But I can sleep soundly, knowing it’s not haunted.