The massive success of 2013’s tremendous horror opus, The Conjuring, guaranteed a future inundation of follow-ups and cash-ins. Hence the greenlight on The Conjuring 2, though that film, following the continued adventures of paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) abroad, has been put on hold over legal woes. Fear not, though (or do, as the case may be); the first spin-off to the original picture, Annabelle, opens in theaters today (read our review), just in time to remind us what made its progenitor so effective.
Annabelle is an origin story that starts off with a hacked up version of The Conjuring‘s opening sequence, which introduces its audience to the titular possessed toy as well as the Warrens. From there, though, Annabelle diverges and takes us back to the days before the cherubic figurine became a porcelain font of evil; it’s basically the Batman Begins of all evil doll movies. It’s also completely bereft of all but the faintest whiffs of the Warrens’ influence.
For those curious as to why the Warrens never make a single meaningful appearance throughout Annabelle, then let the record be set straight by director John R. Leonetti (who also served as DP on The Conjuring). Cinema Blend had the chance to catch him with Leonetti last weekend, and they took the opportunity to ask him point blank whether or not he thought about inviting Wilson and Farmiga to make a joint cameo in his film.
It’s a fair question with a boring, mundane answer: turns out that while Leonetti would have liked for the duo to show up in Annabelle, the usual scheduling conflicts kept those guest spots from panning out. Here’s the full quote from Leonetti himself.
“Honestly, yes, we would have loved for them to join the party, if you will, but I just don’t think it was viable with their schedule and ours, so we just did it the way we did it.”
Pretty cut and dry, though if you note his wording, there’s no actual confirmation that Wilson and Farmiga were contacted about reprising their Conjuring roles here. It kinda sounds like Leonetti based his decision on the assumption that he wouldn’t be able to get the pair on set. And while both actors are having busy years – Wilson’s docket is full thanks to movies like Stretch and Zipper, while Farmiga has a supporting credit on The Judge – none of these projects appear to have been filming when principal photography began on Annabelle.
So what gives? First off, and in the interest of fairness, it’s important to take Leonetti as his word since it’s difficult to see into the inner workings of a studio production from the outside; second, Annabelle didn’t need to make room for the Warrens at all to function, so the omission of the characters doesn’t feel like a huge problem. Frankly, having them pop in to say “hi” at any point could have created continuity issues, too many to make even a walk-on worth the trouble.
Basically, if you find yourself really missing Ed and Lorraine as you sit through Annabelle, then your best bet is to hold out for The Conjuring 2 to make it through development hell.
Annabelle is in theaters starting today.