The upcoming Annabelle: Creation isn't a typical horror movie sequel. While the movie's 2014 predecessor was a period film in its own right, set in the year 1967, the follow-up chooses not to directly continue that story, but instead goes back in time by a decade to tell an origin story of sorts. Because of this, there is a certain disconnect between the central thrust of both narratives -- connected only by the presence of the titular doll -- but producer Peter Safran has promised that the two movies are very much connected through the events that ultimately play out, flowing into each other naturally as two chapters of the same story.
I had the opportunity to learn all about Annabelle: Creation and the building Conjuring Cinematic Universe when I drove out to the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California last summer to visit the set of the David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) film while it was still in production. The group of journalists of which I was a part had the chance to sit down for an extensive interview with Peter Safran, and it was while digging into the formation of the sequel that the filmmaker discussed the project's origins and connections to the first movie:
We made the first Annabelle as a standalone movie, but with its success and certainly even before it came out, after we tested it, we 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 Gary Dauberman who came up with, who is our writer... it was his idea to go back and give the real origin story of Annabelle. And I think it is feathered into Annabelle 1, in a really clever and innovative manner at the end of this movie. I think people will be really satisfied with the way that they dovetail together.
With the exception of its titular doll, Annabelle: Creation features a completely different set of characters from the original Annabelle, moving the focus away from the young married couple in the first film and set in the year 1957. The story centers on a group of orphan girls and their nun caretaker (Stephanie Sigman), who find themselves stranded after their orphanage is closed down. Fortunately, they receive some kindness courtesy of Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia), who is a retired dollmaker who spends his days taking care of his catatonic wife (Miranda Otto). Unfortunately, the house is full of some seriously bad juju thanks to the death of the Mullins' daughter 12 years previous, and before long the girls find themselves tortured by otherworldly spirits.
Of course, having Annabelle: Creation tie back to the original Annabelle is important for the future of the franchise, as both movies are part of the cinematic universe that is slowly starting to grow around James Wan's The Conjuring movies. Peter Safran admitted to us in our interview that there isn't any kind of master plan that has existed for years to get the projects off the ground, but did note that they are now genuinely focusing on continuity and trying to build a better sense of cohesiveness between all of their projects (including not only Annabelle and Conjuring films, but also The Nun, which is currently in development). Said Safran,
We have a board that we created that has what we hope will ultimately be our series of movies. We have it in chronological order, so we can keep track of where it all happens. Because yes, we're... I mean, listen, we've already messed it up, I'm sure - from the first Conjuring to Annabelle. I know we did, but we were trying to be pretty careful about it, and you're absolutely right. At some point, you will be able to watch in order, The Nun, Annabelle 2 Annabelle 1, Conjuring, Conjuring 2, you know.
I followed up by asking if this description meant The Nun would wind up being the earliest movie in the franchise timeline, and Peter Safran laughed and said, "It could be!"
While it was originally scheduled to arrive in theaters in the first half of the year, Annabelle: Creation is still in post-production, and will be coming to a cinema near you on August 11th. Stay tuned for that release, as well as more from my time on the set of the exciting new horror film!