SPOILER WARNING: The following feature contains massive spoilers for The Nun. If you have not yet seen the film, and don't wish to know details about the way the movie ends, you may want to click away to another one of our wonderful articles.
The Conjuring Universe is rapidly expanding. The franchise didn't really start off with hugely ambitious plans, but ever since The Conjuring made over $300 million worldwide the aspirations have grown more epic. Not only did the first movie spawn a sequel that out-grossed its predecessor, but Annabelle has proven to be a massively successful spin-off series, two movies together making over $560 million globally. Now we have the latest entry in the form of director Corin Hardy's The Nun, and it ultimately proves to be a crucial piece in the growing continuity.
Specifically, it's the end of The Nun that ties it directly into the rest of the happenings in the Conjuring Universe, and it's those sequences in particular that we're here to dissect. What happens at the end? What does it mean? What do the filmmakers have to say about it? You'll find the answers to all those questions and more in this feature, so read on!
What Happens At The End Of The Film
After discovering the truth about Sister Victoria's suicide -- that she was actually sacrificing herself to avoid possession instead of just killing herself -- Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) formulate a plan to defeat The Nun a.k.a. Valak. They believe that if they can seal the broken rift from which the demon escaped it will be banished from our realm, and they acquire the tools that will help them complete their mission: the key to the catacombs, and an artifact that contains a vial of Jesus Christ's blood.
Of course, fighting a demon is no easy business -- and recognizing that the trio is stronger together Valak successfully manages to separate them. The group is attacked by all matters of unholy things Irene is temporarily possessed, though she is freed when Frenchie uses some of Christ's blood (an act that gets him knocked out for a good spell). Burke is once again haunted by images of the young boy who died during an exorcism, forcing him to separate from Irene, and Irene is thrown into the rift room, which is quickly filling with water.
Irene sees the artifact floating close to her, though it appears that it is broken. Valak attacks again, trying to drown her. At first it looks like the demon has succeeded, holding Irene's limp body, but the young nun then spits Christ's blood in its face, revealing that she had held it in her mouth. Valak disintegrates, and the portal closes, but Irene appears lifeless. Frenchie, now awake, rushes over to her, and performs CPR, successfully waking her up. Burke finds them, and Frenchie tells them his real name: Maurice Theriault. As they start to leave they affirm that the monastery is once again a holy place, but it's revealed that this is really nothing more than sentiment. Rather than being banished, Valak has managed to successfully possess Frenchie, as evidenced by a scar on his neck that looks like an inverted cross.
Fast-forwarding to 20 years later, Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) sits in an auditorium watching a presentation by Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) -- a clip from the first Conjuring. In the slideshow, the couple discusses a particularly disturbing exorcism that they were a part of, one that involved a French-Canadian farmer... named Maurice Theriault.
This may seem like a simple dovetail that links The Nun to The Conjuring, but those intimately familiar with the Conjuring Universe should know that the connection to previous titles goes much deeper than that. And if you're not entirely sure how it all works, we recommend clicking to the next page.
Who Was Frenchie?
Though introduced after both Father Burke and Sister Irene, Frenchie is one of the key protagonists in The Nun, right up until he becomes possessed by the antagonist. It's good that he had his chance to be the hero, though, because while we don't really get to see any of the negative effects of his particular demonic condition in the main narrative, he definitely doesn't have a bright future. That's obviously kind of sad, but what's significant is that he winds up having a major impact on the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
In The Conjuring, Ed describes the life of Maurice "Frenchie" Theriault (who was actually a real person at the center of a known possession story). It's said he had nothing more than a third grade education, but spoke perfect Latin when the Warrens met him, sometimes backwards, and as a child had been molested and tortured by his father. During his exorcism he bled from the eyes, and an inverted cross appeared on his side, which is all pretty horrific, but most importantly he "showed" Lorraine something that shook her to her core, taking what Ed describes as "a real big piece" of her.
Exactly what Maurice psychically projected was a mystery that remained unanswered by the end of The Conjuring, but it then become a vital part of The Conjuring 2. Not only was the sequel the first time that audiences were specifically introduced to Valak, who was ultimately revealed to be the big bad of the movie, but we even got to see what it was that so horrified the clairvoyant paranormal investigator: the death of her husband, impaled on a lightning-struck tree after falling out of a window. It's thankfully a fate that the Warrens narrowly avoid, but it still must be recognized that Maurice "Frenchie" Theriault left one hell of an impression -- an impression that we got an origin story for in the form of The Nun.
Interestingly, it's the second time we've seen this kind of ending from The Conjuring Universe, as Annabelle: Creation -- a prequel to its predecessor -- also made some finishing maneuvers that led to a perfect match-up. It seems to be a cool, clever direction for the franchise to take as it continues to expand and produce more spin-offs, and it's a conclusion strategy that I had the chance to talk about with The Nun screenwriter Gary Dauberman, producer Peter Safran, and director Corin Hardy...
How The Dovetail Came Together
The Nun is a film that came together very quickly, as it only officially put together its filmmaking team in February 2017, and had them going into production three months later. That's not a lot of time for big franchise discussions to be had, but according to Gary Dauberman, Peter Safran, and Corin Hardy, the dovetail was part of the equation from the very beginning.
Dauberman has some good experience in the Conjuring Universe, having written both Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation before The Nun, and during a recent interview he explained how the Frenchie narrative became a part of the new movie -- noting special enthusiasm from The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 director James Wan. Said the screenwriter,
That was something very early on that was planned. That was also something James felt very strongly about, that I feel very strongly about, you know? How do we tie this into... The Nun was introduced in The Conjuring 2, the Valak of it all has been sort of this foreboding presence in all the movies, whether we knew it or not. That was something we had to sort of strategize, how to fit that in in sort of an elegant way.
Looking at things from the big picture perspective, that "elegant way" was particularly important for Peter Safran, who has produced all of The Conjuring Universe films to date, and has been a key figure in overseeing the larger continuity. Fans certainly recognize that The Nun is a spin-off series featuring the main villain from The Conjuring 2, but making narrative maneuvers like those that unfold at the end of the movie drives home the continuity and serves as important connective tissue (a la Nick Fury showing up at the end of Iron Man). Safran explained it as such:
We do like to feel that it's a cohesive universe, and we feel like these movies do organically fit together. And it's something that we don't try to jerry-rig it, you know. They all make sense. So when we started talking about what the movie The Nun would be, and we said it would be that origin story of Valak, the demon, we always wanted to make sure that it was connected to the Conjuring Universe, not simply by the fact that the character appeared in Conjuring 2, but that there really was a tangible string that exists for it. And one of the stories that we always loved is the Maurice story, the Maurice Theriault story.
Continuing, Peter Safran noted that not only is the inclusion of Frenchie in The Nun helpful in terms of firming up continuity, but it's also just fun and rewarding for fans. Those who have been especially enjoying The Conjuring Universe movies to this point will all get a nice extra little jolt and chance to smirk thanks to the end of the film, all kicking off with the character revealing his real name:
We felt like that one really organically fit into this movie. We just thought it was a great, truthfully, just a really fun nugget for people, that you watch the whole movie looking at Frenchy and then he tells you his name is Maurice - and some of people will put it all together back from the first Conjuring that this was the character that we were talking about way back then.
Of course, this is also one of the great and unique facets of cinematic universe franchises. Creating these kinds of bridges between projects isn't something that's on the table for straight series, and it's something that demands being taken advantage of. The folks behind The Conjuring Universe seem to clearly understand this, and as a result have given us, along with Annabelle: Creation, two great dovetail finishes.
As for Corin Hardy, he also noted that working Maurice Theriault into The Nun was always a part of the project's development - including the subterfuge to hide his true identity with his nickname. Adding to that, though, he also expressed how happy he was to show a happier time in Maurice's life than what was shown in The Conjuring -- showcasing that he was more than just a simple agrarian with a troubled childhood. Said the director,
It was always part of the plan that you introduce this character who says, 'My friends call me Frenchie,' and you know him as Frenchie. He does introduce [himself] as Maurice Theriault, and if you're paying attention Patrick Wilson's character in The Conjuring introduces Maurice Theroux as a French farmer - French-Canadian. And we cover all of that. It's there if you're really paying attention you'll see French-Canadian farmer called Maurice Theriault. But then you're like, 'Well how did he get...' It's nice, this idea, that he's been working over there for the people, he's a good man.
For your viewing pleasure, you can watch Corin Hardy discuss the ending of The Nun by clicking play on the video below.
Given the bow that's tied at the end of The Nun, its potential as its own spin-off series is unclear at this stage -- but what's definitely not done is the Conjuring Universe. Not only is there a Conjuring 3 and an Annabelle 3 in the works, but there is also another planned spin-off being planned for one of The Conjuring 2's other terrifying visages: The Crooked Man. You'll be able to find updates on all of those projects and more in the coming weeks, months, and years, so be sure to be on the lookout for all those details here on CinemaBlend.