Annabelle Comes Home is the third installment of the hugely successful Annabelle films, starring the infamous sinister doll from The Conjuring universe, and this one tells the story of what happened when demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) brought it home to place it behind sacred and blessed glass in the locked artifacts room in their home. When the evil spirits in the room are awakened by the possessed doll, they all set their sights on the Warrens’ young daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and Mary Ellen’s best friend Daniela (Katie Sarife).
On November 14, 2018, Collider (along with a handful of other online outlets) was invited to the set on the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, Calif., where we got to talk to franchise producer Peter Safran, who has produced all of the films through The Safran Company. During the interview, which was held on a soundstage in a room that was filled with a variety of crosses (one of which would periodically spin on the wall), photos and posters from previous films in the universe, he talked about how they came to focus this film on Judy Warren, why they chose this particular time period, whether this is a stand-alone film, why it was time for Gary Dauberman (who wrote the previous two Annabelle films) to sit in the director’s chair for this third installment, when they realized they had an entire horror cinematic universe, how much more they think that universe can expand, and whether producer James Wan might ever direct another one.
Question: Usually The Conjuring films and the Annabelle films might have Ed and Lorraine Warren, but they are about a different family. Where did the decision come from, to focus on Ed and Lorraine, specifically?
PETER SAFRAN: Well, it’s less Ed and Lorraine, and more Judy, but the idea for bringing it back to the Warren family was something that we’ve been toying with for awhile. We had the parents, we had the Hodgsons, and we’ve taken it all away to Romania, with a totally different vibe and feel for The Nun. We just liked the idea of bringing it closer to home, back to ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, which was the touchstone for it. That just really made sense. We always loved the idea of the artifacts room being the potential source of more stories. The idea for actually setting a film around that was something that we had in our mind for awhile, and Gary [Dauberman], James [Wan] and myself just thought that the 3rd Annabelle movie was an opportunity to really raise the stakes. Also, the opening scene of The Conjuring is so iconic, when it opens up on the half-face of Annabelle, and we just always liked the idea of, what happened after they left there? We see them taking the doll, but what happens? It was actually something that other people had asked us, in the past, as well. We just thought we would explore that story.
Regarding the timeline and from looking at the artifacts room, does this film take place after the first The Conjuring but before The Conjuring 2?
SAFRAN: That is correct. That’s exactly right.
How did you settle on that?
SAFRAN: We wanted it to be close in time to the prologue of The Conjuring, where they take the doll. So, we knew that it was gonna be somewhere in that range, whether it was immediately upon bringing the doll home, or six months later, or a year later, and I think we settled on a year later, we wanted Judy to still be young Judy, in the early ‘70s, as opposed to ‘77 for the Hodgsons. We knew it would lie somewhere in there, and we wanted it to be pretty close to the time in which they brought the doll home.
How dependent on all of the previous films is this one? Can you watch this fresh and take everything in, but also pick up on little connections, if you have seen the others?
SAFRAN: That’s exactly it. There are actually a lot of connections to the other films. They are there to be picked up by the viewer who’s seen the other movies in The Conjuring universe, but it is very much a standalone film because we really do tell a chronological story. We have Ed and Lorraine bringing the doll home, and then the story leads from that. It’s very much a standalone film, but for everybody who’s seen the other movies, you’ll get to know Judy. You’ve been in the artifacts room, a couple of times in the other movies, so to see that built out, there’s a lot for people to draw from, if they’re fans of the universe.
Gary Dauberman has been involved with this universe for so long now, as a writer. Was it just a natural evolution for him to step into the director’s chair, at this point?
SAFRAN: It was the easiest decision that we’ve made, with the whole franchise. He wrote Annabelle 1, Annabelle 2 and The Nun, and he spent a lot of time on set on all three of those movies, but particularly The Nun, where he was on set, every day. He got to a place, as a writer, where he wanted people to stop fucking up his movies. He really didn’t want to write another one and hand it off. We know him so well, and he’s learned so much, at the hands of James [Wan], from working with him so closely, that it was like going to a university on how to craft scares. He was really ready to make that move, and we all identified Annabelle 3 as the one where he should do it. It was just really a natural progression. We tried to keep The Conjuring universe family together, so there a lot of people that’ve worked on all six movies, or four or five movies, and we try to elevate them up. When you find someone you really like working with, you wanna give them the opportunity to grow, and James loved working with Gary, since the first Annabelle, so it was inevitable. If he was gonna direct, we wanted it to be for us.