After the massive success of THE CONJURING, the studio recognized that it had a goldmine on its hands. There was the de rigueur sequel rushed into production, then they had the idea to do a spin-off based on the haunted doll that made a brief appearance in THE CONJURING. When THAT movie proved profitable, and THE CONJURING 2 proved just as big a hit as its predecessor, it was a guarantee that we’d be seeing lots more CONJURING-related films. They’re making one about the evil nun character from THE CONJURING 2, and the character has a brief cameo in the latest offering to make its way to theaters, ANNABELLE: CREATION. In this day and age, when shared universes are the thing to be coveted by movie studios above all else (except profits, but that goes without saying), New Line Cinema had grown one organically. It had all the makings of a franchise ala SAW or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, where an original, successful film spawned a crank-’em-out, assembly line linear enterprise of diminishing quality. But something strange happened.

THE CONJURING 2 was a superior film in every respect to the original. And ANNABELLE: CREATION, the sequel to a movie that was nothing but an attempt to cash in and was purely generic, improves upon its predecessor to the point it actually makes THAT movie seem better in retrospect. It stays true to the storyline established; nothing is ret-conned. Yet every messy snag is sanded away and painted over, then used as the foundation for a far superior effort. What a pleasant surprise. ANNABELLE: CREATION gets everything RIGHT. We’ve seen this type of film many times before, but the trick is to tell a story that is by necessity familiar in unique and fresh ways. Properly directed, and helped by solid acting throughout, especially from young Talitha Bateman in the lead role, ANNABELLE: CREATION gives me hope for this franchise. Could we see that rarest of examples, wherein a studio’s milking of its cash cow results in a series of films that actually maintain their quality or, even more surprisingly, improves with its progression?