A few months ago, we had an opportunity to journey to the set of Annabelle Comes Home, the upcoming third film in the spinoff series started by The Conjuring. It was here that we got to sit down with Peter Safran, producer of the upcoming film. He shared his insight into the future of The Conjuring universe, Gary Dauberman in his directorial debut, and his anticipation for more from the artifacts room.
Read below to find out more but be warned as there are spoilers ahead!
Dread Central: What was the motivation for Annabelle Comes Home?
Peter Safran: We always liked the idea of what happened after we see the Warrens take the doll. What happens? It was something that other people had asked us in the past as well. We just thought we would explore that story.
DC: It seems to take place after the first Conjuring but before the Conjuring 2?
PS: That is correct. We wanted it to be close in time to the prologue of The Conjuring where they take the doll. We knew that it was going to be somewhere in that range, whether it would be immediately, six months later, or a year later. I think we settled on a year later. But we wanted Judy to still be young Judy, in the early 1970s as opposed to later.
DC: Can you watch this as a standalone film like some other installments in The Conjuring universe, or will you have to have knowledge coming into the film?
PS: I think there are a lot of connections to the other films that are there to be picked out by the viewers who’ve seen the other movies in The Conjuring universe. But it is very much a standalone film. We really do tell a chronological story. We have Ed and Lorraine bringing the doll home, and then the story leads from that. So very much a standalone film. But for everyone that has seen the other movies, you’ve been in the Artifact Room a couple of different times in the other movies and have seen that built out. There is a lot for people to draw from if they are fans of the universe.
DC: Gary has been involved with this universe so long as a writer. Was it a natural evolution for him to jump into the chair as a director at this point?
PS: It was the easiest decision we made I think in the whole franchise. Obviously, he wrote Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation and The Nun. We all spent a lot of time on the sets, particularly The Nun. He was on set every day, and he had gotten to that place as a writer where it was inevitable that he wanted people to stop messing up his movies. He didn’t want to just write another one and hand it off. And we know him so well and he has learned so much at the hands of James Wan, David F. Sandberg, and Corin Hardy as well. But just really working with James Wan so closely was like going to university on how to craft scares. He was really ready to make that move, and I think we all identified Annabelle Comes Homes as being the one where he should do it. Again, it was just a really natural progression. We tried to keep The Conjuring universe family together, so there are a lot of people who have worked on all the movies. We try to elevate them up. When you find somebody, you want to give them an opportunity to grow. James had loved working with Gary since the first Annabelle, and it was just inevitable that if he was going to direct, we wanted it to be for us.
DC: As far as keeping it in the family, did you want the films to have a similar rhythm or did you want them to have their own standalone vibe?
PS: You know, we always tried to make sure that we were not diluting what we were doing. We wanted to tell stories that could stand on their own. Obviously, The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 by James Wan have similar rhythms. With Annabelle: Creation, we took it away from just a family home. Obviously, with The Nun, we went to Romania to give it a completely different vibe. I think we tried to find ways to ensure they don’t feel repetitive. And I think we’ve been pretty successful at doing that. And with this one, although we brought it back home to the Warren’s house, as it was in The Conjuring, the movie has a very different feel. It all takes place within one night, as opposed to being stretched out over the course of a family’s story. We feel like it definitely stands alone as its own tone and vibe.
DC: You have The Conjuring 3, which is presumably going through production this year, and then you potentially have Crooked Man. How is each movie, as you are moving forward, kind of changing as you are developing?
PS: After doing The Conjuring movie, and it being as successful as it was, everybody at the studio was clamoring for a sequel, right? We always felt that we were not going to make another movie as long as we felt there was a story that we could tell, that we felt was worthy of being another Conjuring movie. That’s kind of been the mandate for each of these, to greater or lesser levels of success. Do we have a story that we want to tell that really merits being part of The Conjuring universe and is not just a scary movie? And we feel like this one continues to satisfy that goal. It’s different enough.
DC: When did it sink in to create the Conjuring Cinematic Universe, for lack of a better term?
PS: As a buddy of mine said after the first one was successful, “You don’t have a franchise until your second one really works.” All you have is one good movie. There are particular movies in the horror genre that the first is great but they never manage to replicate it. I think with the commercial success of Annabelle, although critically it was not what we hoped it would be, it was evident that people had a real appetite beyond Ed and Lorraine Warren. They just liked the idea of this world that we were living in. And I don’t think that we used the term universe until well beyond Annabelle: Creation. But it just became clear that people had a real interest in what we were doing.
And from the very get go, we knew the Warren’s had a lot of case files and we liked the idea of being able to draw from them. That kind of led us to where we are today. When we gave James Wan the original script for The Conjuring, it didn’t have Annabelle in the opening. James said, “Let’s put that in as the opening of our movie.” I think that he did that knowing there would be some real interest in Annabelle. And he was right, as always.
DC: How much more do you think The Conjuring universe and franchise can expand as far as titles?
PS: I think inevitably, as long as you keep having original stories to tell, I think the moment you start repeating yourself and really diluting the goodwill that
We are all happy to walk away from it the moment we don’t feel we have a movie that lives up to it. We really are. We would stop tomorrow if we didn’t have another one. The script for The Conjuring 3 is absolutely fantastic and a real departure from The Conjuring 1 and The Conjuring 2. We are ambitious in our attempts to make sure that we are telling an original story. In the artifact room, there are other stories to be told. Some will have an original feel, some will involve the Warrens, and some won’t. I think that The Nun certainly shows that we can make different kinds of movies that don’t involve principal characters in significant roles.
DC: You mentioned the case files in the artifact room. Is there one story in particular that you’d like to see become a film?
PS: Not yet. I mean, there are a bunch of things that we are exploring in this film that I just love and I think are going to be great. But frequently, the audience tells you what the next one should be. When we did The Conjuring 2, we all thought Crooked Man would be the next one out the gate. We just loved it. It was a great character. Instead, the audience was so fascinated with The Nun and so many people were directly messaging James about what was her origin, who is she, where did she come from. There was just a real fascination. It was clear that that should, in fact, be the next one that we do.
And it’s not that we won’t do Crooked Man, it’s just that you have to balance out with the fans. We have ideas of what we want to do beyond this from the artifact room. But I suspect that we will probably let the audience tell us exactly what we should be doing.
DC: Do you think James will come back and direct in this universe or is he happy kind of leaving it new hands now?
PS: I don’t think he will. That’s just me. My instinct is that he won’t. I think he really left everything out on the field with The Conjuring 2. Being by his side as he made that movie, I feel that he had put everything that he had learned up to that point into that film, from character development to scares to crafting sequences. I love the movie and I think that he felt that he DID IT. He really showed people exactly what he wanted to show them. His skills as a filmmaker told a great story. So, I would be surprised if he ended up doing another one. But you never know. Guys like James, for whom scares are in their blood, need an outlet for it at some point. Maybe he is getting it as a producer, but you know, there is something very compelling about just sitting there and wanting to scare the crap out of people.
Annabelle Comes Home will hit theaters June 28, 2019.