'Annabelle Comes Home' Expanding 'Conjuring' Universe With Scary, Fun Origin Story

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(Photo: Justin Lubin/Warner Bros.)

Taking a step back to one of the early scenes from The Conjuring, the first interconnected bit of the horror franchise's connected universe was born. A doll now known as the Annabelle doll would grace movie screen's in James Wan's terrifying horror thriller before spawning a trilogy of films of its own. With the third film on the way, Warner Bros. opened its studio doors to select members of the press for an exclusive look at the dark origin story of the doll.

Bringing Ed and Lorraine Warren back into the mix with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their respective roles, Annabelle Comes Home is also bringing in a younger, new ensemble cast. The new life comes with a revitalized tone for the franchise, with the third film aiming to capture all of the same scares, but offering up additional moments of humor and levity while not crossing the line into becoming an outright horror comedy.

"[Director] Gary [Dauberman] and James [Wan] and myself just thought this was the opportunity that the third Annabelle movie was the opportunity to really raise the stakes," producer Peter Safran said. "Also, the opening scene of The Conjuring...It opens up on the half face of Annabelle. We just always liked the idea of, 'Well, what happened after they left there? We see them taking the doll. What happens?' It was something that other people had asked us in the past as well and we just thought we'd explore that story."

As a result, Annabelle Comes Home is set between the events of The Conjuring and its direct sequel. Not far from the interview, the live set was shooting a scene with franchise newcomers Madison Iseman and McKenna Grace, showing that the film will capture the classic horror vibes. Iseman's character is a babysitter, entertaining the young ones with a classic board game, before an unexpected doorbell ring (shouted out from a crew member) eerily sets the tone. As the camera zoomed into the mystery box game and the hole in which the players reach their hands, it seems certain that something will be jumping out at the audiences, leaving them haunted as the treacherous journey begins for the characters.

"I'm not a huge fan of horror comedies but I love comedy in my horror if that makes sense, so I like moments of levity," Dauberman said on the set of his directorial debut. "So I'm leaning to that a little bit more on certain moments because I find if we hit those moments where people laugh and then get scared right away I'd like to try and lay on that. I've been playing around with that a little bit more. And it just fits the girls too because they're so upbeat that sort of teenagers world in a house sort of thing we've been trying to capture too."

Dauberman stepping into the role is no mistake. While the crew don't expect Wan to return to the universe he created as a director, he continues to hand pick those who fulfill such a role from an executive producer stance.

Though the film will stand almost entirely on its own, there are some blatant connections which fans of the previous films within the Conjuring universe will pick up and enjoy. "I think there're actually a lot of connections to the other films that are there to be picked out by the viewer who've seen the other movies in The Conjuring universe," Safran said, "but it is very much a standalone film because we really do tell a chronological story with it. We have Ed and Lorraine bringing the doll home and then the story that leads from that."

Walking through the ever-so-creepy artifact room is proof enough that this is, as much as any, a Conjuring universe film. It is a welcome backstory which will fulfill the hardcore fans' need for answers but looks as though it will service newcomers as much as The Nun did before it.

"There's a spirit of playfulness in the movie too and I think that comes across and their whole vibe and their willingness to play around with things," Dauberman said. "It starts out with the Warrens bringing Annabelle home to the artifact room. So that's kind of where it sort of picks up where the first Conjuring started if you remember that Annabelle sequence."

From there, Annabelle Comes Home deals with haunting issues of loss and humanity, in what looks like a surprising fashion. While Ed and Lorraine will certainly be thirsted for by the longtime fans, it looks as though Iseman (best known for her role as Bethany in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and Katie Sarife (of Supernatural fame) will be carrying the load of the narrative.

"She is really interested in the afterlife, because she had an experience with a lost loved one," Sarife said of her character. "She's got a lot of heart," Sarife adds, as it seems her Daniella will be desperately searching for closure in regards to her father's death.

Meanwhile, Iseman's MaryEllen will be looking after everyone, apparently as an over-achieving babysitter. "She takes a huge responsibility as far as taking care of everything," Iseman said. "Especially when her friend comes over as well and she feels a big responsibility for Daniella as well. So she kind of puts on the burden of everyone else in a sense. She's the babysitter, caretaker."

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Annabelle Comes Home hits theaters on June 28.