The world of The Conjuring, so rich with ghosts and demons, has given birth to an entire cinematic universe of supernatural threats. The most instantly iconic is Annabelle, the cursed doll that's appeared throughout the franchise. After her brief introduction the first installment of the horror series, the doll has gone on to star in her own films.
CBR had the opportunity to visit the set of the third chapter, Annabelle Comes Home, explore the home of paranormal investigators Ed and Loraine Warren, and speak with director Gary Dauberman and stars Madison Iseman, McKenna Grace and Katie Sarife.
The House That Horror Built
After being brought onto the Warner Bros. film lot, journalists were led through the recreated home of the Warrens. Jennifer Spence (Shazam!) took over production design for the film, helping to recreate the rooms while adding her own touches to the setting. She revealed she had slipped new elements into the house, and specifically the fabled artifact room.
As the group was led through the Warren home, the cast and crew filmed parts of the set. The 1970s decor permeates the main house, from the small touches of Judy Warren's bedroom to the design of the kitchen. Spence showed us the wardrobe constructed for the film, and introduced the color schemes and designs of each character's clothing. Overall, the feeling of the set is one of comfort. The calm setting doesn't betray the horrors that are hidden in the back of the house: namely, the artifact room.
Perhaps the most distinct setting in the franchise, the room contains all of the possessed artifacts the Warrens have collected over the years. The room has appeared prominently in previous films, but not as much as in this one. The producers revealed the artifact room actually been expanded, with director Gary Dauberman explaining the room grew so they could include more frightening souvenirs as the series continued. No photos were permitted, but sitting in the back corner was the Annabelle doll, tucked away in her display case.
The Cast & Crew
Star Mckenna Grace, who plays daughter Judy Warren, was practically jumping from joy at being on set.
"It's really exciting, because I love the movies," said the 12-year-old actress, who played young Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel. [Judy's] really cool, she's nice and knows a lot about all the paranormal stuff. For me and my interpretation, I think she knows a lot about it. But she also doesn't like it too much, because she gets made fun of at school a lot, so she doesn't like it for that reason. It's really fun, though. When I found out I was going to be Judy, I started crying. It was really exciting. [Horror movies] are my favorite type of movies. I love them. I watch them all the time with my Dad. My favorite is The Shining. All-time favorite. I don't get scared, I like them. Some of them are scary to me and some of them aren't. Depends on what movie it is."
When asked what it was like to see Annabelle for the first time, Grace described it as "Scary! Frightening. Exciting, but most of all scary."
"We were scared every time we saw the Annabelle doll," she continued. "There was [also] this giant skull sort of thing. It was obviously fake, it looked like an animal skull. It was obviously fake. And there was this little monkey that would laugh that was creepy. I haven't been in [the artifact room] all too much."
Madison Iseman described her character, babysitter Mary Ellen, as "very pure." "She's very put together, in every way," she said. "So of course, everything just goes wrong. I love horror films in general, so I've always been wanting to do one. And I got really lucky with this one, because this is such a great thing to be a part of, the Conjuring universe in general. I remember seeing The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 when I was in high school, and it scared the crap out of me. And I love the Annabelle films as well.
"I've always been obsessed with horror films," Iseman continued. "When I was younger, I used to make my own little horror films. They're on the internet, you can't find them. They're like a really weird little thing with my friends from middle school. So I feel like I've always had that inside of me, that I've always have wanted to tap into." While talking about her character and how the paranormal affects her, Iseman said "I think it scares her so much that she chooses not to think about it. When it's brought up in conversation, she's the kind of person who will start talking about 'Ohhh, this lamp is really nice.' She'll change the subject. It makes her uneasy, but she's also really close with the Warrens as well."
Katie Sarife introduced herself, saying "my character's name is Danielle, and she's really fun. She's that kind of fun best friend who finds the humor in everything. She's also got this wild curiosity with the afterlife, because she just lost a loved one, so she's very curious with that stuff. And she's best friends with Mary Ellen, who Madison plays. [Danielle] is that friend that gets you out of your bubble, pushes you a bit. I really liked playing her. I do think she covers a bit of her pain with being fun, but I think that's also just a quality that she has... I feel like she's pretty close to myself so I just try to find the more confident elements of myself, because she speaks her mind. I think a lot of it is based on a part of me."
When asked what it was like to come onto the movies, Sarife said, "I love these films. I will be honest, it took me a couple of tries to get through the first Conjuring. I quit the first few times, because I'm a big baby. I'll make people sit outside the bathroom for me because I'm so scared. But I love this horror franchise and I think everyone [involved] is so great and talented, and they've mastered it. So I think to be a part of this franchise is just amazing. I think the films are terrifying, but I was glad to be a part of them. And when I get scared, I have my rosemary in my pocket to help out."
"Dolls were my biggest fear growing up," she said. "I was petrified of my dolls. It was terrifying. So when I found out [about Annabelle Comes Home], I was like, 'This is going to be a little payback.' But every time I say something that could piss off Annabelle, I'm like, 'Just kidding just kidding.'"