The Nun: Understanding The Conjuring Universe Timeline

Do you remember the first time you came face-to-face with Valak?

To celebrate The Nun arriving on Blu-ray, Movies In Focus is taking a look back through The Conjuring Universe timeline to prepare you for its release!

Beginning with The Conjuring in 2013 from director James Wan, the Conjuring Universe kicks off by exploring the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a real-life couple from Monroe, Connecticut who dedicated their adult lives to investigating supernatural events. Their investigations in The Conjuring introduced a plethora of demonic characters, ultimately opening the door to an expanded cinematic universe, and resulting in one of the most successful horror movie franchises of all time. 

The Nun – 1952

The Nun takes place in Romania in 1952 and at this point is the earliest chapter in The Conjuring Universe. Wan and the film’s director, Corin Hardy, designed the film to be an origin story that explores The Conjuring’s ultimate evil, Valak. When a nun commits suicide at the Abbey of St. Carta, people begin to suspect that the dark powers of Valak are involved. The film even opens on a sizzle reel of Valak’s damage, complete with Lorraine Warren’s foreboding voiceover, taken from The Conjuring 2.

The Nun digs into the story of the individual responsible for summoning not only Valak into the world, but demons in general. There’s a flashback that goes all the way back to the Dark Ages as the Duke of St. Carta’s ritual to summon Valak gets shown in detail. The Nun also briefly jumps back in time to 1945 to show Father Burke’s first experience with demonic possession. Whether the force that takes control of Daniel is Valak or some other evil, Valak still uses Daniel’s spirit as a means to torture Burke throughout the film (and really plays into the “Marquis of Snakes” namesake).

After it looks like Sister Irene and company have defeated Valak, The Nun shows that they were unsuccessful – jumping forward to 1977 during the Warrens’ “three stages of possession” lecture from The Conjuring 2. The couple’s possession footage gets framed in a new light as the twisted fate of The Nun’s Maurice (“Frenchie”) is revealed. It also shows that the Warrens initially encounter Valak much earlier than they realise.

Annabelle: Creation – 1955

Even though Annabelle: Creation came out after both Annabelle and The Conjuring, it’s a prequel to both. Set in 1955, the film follows Samuel and Esther Mullins as they open their home up to Sister Charlotte and six orphan girls, but the film begins with a brief detour in 1943 when the Mullins lose their daughter, Annabelle, in a car accident.

The goal of Annabelle: Creation is to explain how the possessed doll from The Conjuring came into existence. Samuel Mullins is a doll-maker and after the death of his daughter, the Mullins are so desperate to see their child again that they form a pact with a demon (that they believe is their daughter’s spirit) and allow it to possess a doll as a host. Janice, one of the orphans, forms an unusual friendship with the possessed doll and the awakened evil spirit is now hungry for a human conduit.

Additionally, at one-point Sister Charlotte shows off a photo of herself and three other nuns from back when she was in Romania. The important thing about this is that an unnamed Valak is also present in the background of the photo as a fellow nun. While these nuns aren’t named, the photo originally appears on the wall of the convent within the Abbey of St. Carta in The Nun, placing Sister Charlotte’s photo in the year 1952. 

Annabelle – 1967

The Conjuring essentially contains a stand-alone Annabelle short film, so it’s no surprise that the evil little doll quickly became a fan favourite. The Conjuring explains how the Warrens came into possession of the Annabelle doll, but Annabelle sets out to show some of the doll’s carnage before she gets locked up. Annabelle is set a mere four years before The Conjuring and it follows Mia and John Form, two fresh parents who unfortunately come in contact with the doll when she’s eager for a human host. It’s worth pointing out that Annabelle begins with the death of Annabelle Higgins, AKA Janice from Annabelle: Creation. It’s her death in the proximity of the doll that sets in motion the disturbing series of events.

The desperate Forms turn to the church as a last resort. This is ultimately what gets Annabelle in the orbit of the Warrens. Father Perez even makes a sly reference to the Warrens (albeit not by name) as one of his solutions to the Annabelle problem, although he can’t reach them in time.

Annabelle concludes with a tag that’s set six months after the events of the film and cleanly leads into the incident seen in The Conjuring’s prologue. Both Rick and Debbie from The Conjuring make a brief appearance as Debbie’s mom buys the doll from an antique shop and the rest is history.

A third Annabelle film is currently in the works and it will allegedly focus on the doll haunting Judy Warren, Ed and Lorraine’s daughter, placing it right after the events of The Conjuring 2 and likely set in either 1977 or 1978.

The Conjuring – 1971

The whole series excels at scares, but what makes the main Conjuring films such a success is that Ed and Lorraine Warren are such a nice, loving couple. While the Warrens are alluded to in Annabelle and appear in The Nun through recycled footage, The Conjuring marks their first appearance as they try to help the Perron family with their supposedly haunted home.

Set in 1971, The Conjuring tells a fairly straightforward haunted house story that culminates in a terrifying exorcism sequence. Wan and company were just trying to make a good horror film with the first Conjuring, not launch a layered horror universe, so it doesn’t try to set up a handful of other properties. The film doesn’t even feature Valak, but instead opts for an isolated evil spirit known as Bathsheba. The Conjuring benefits from not trying to overextend itself and the Warrens’ creepy curio of haunted antiques leaves plenty of inspiration.

The Conjuring 2 – 1976-1977

The Conjuring 2 begins with a brief introduction that’s set in 1976 while the Warrens attempt to investigate the infamous Amityville murders. The Amityville case isn’t the film’s focus, but it’s during a séance there that Lorraine Warren first experiences Valak. After this warning, the film jumps forward to 1977 when the Hodgson family from Enfield, London requests the Warrens’ expertise.

The Hodgson family find themselves under attack by the ghost of Bill Wilkins, the residence’s former tenant. However, it’s eventually revealed that Valak is actually the real threat here and he’s manipulated Bill Wilkins’ ghost to do his bidding (not unlike what Valak does to young Daniel’s ghost in The Nun). A lot of The Conjuring 2 pits Lorraine against Valak as her biggest challenge yet. The demon can even block Lorraine’s psychic powers, which is significant.

Lorraine tries to keep Janet Hodgson safe from Valak’s clutches, but the demon also chooses to manifest through the youngest Hodgson kid’s zoetrope toy. Ed helps protect Billy from the Crooked Man, and the film ends with the zoetrope being added to the Warrens’ haunted antique collection, right next to the Annabelle doll and April’s music box from the first Conjuring.

The Conjuring 2 sees Lorraine effectively send Valak back to Hell and ends the threat that started in the Abbey of St. Carta all the way back in The Nun

The Nun – Available to Download & Keep now and on Blu-ray and DVD January 14.