The Nun may just be the "darkest chapter in The Conjuring universe", but how exactly does it connect to The Conjuring and its other spinoffs?
The fifth entry in the Conjuring franchise tells the story of a priest and a new initiate to the Catholic faith (played by Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga, respectively) as they investigate a young nun's suicide in Romania. As the practitioners look further into the ghastly circumstances around the woman's death and the surrounding abbey, they find themselves at the precipice of a battle between good and evil, with the souls of the living hanging in the balance.
Related: The Nun's Ending Explained
Based on a story from James Wan, chief architect of The Conjuring franchise, The Nun is the chronological start point for the entire shared universe, telling an origin story of sorts for a recurring villain, the ghoulish nun Valak. Having made appearances in both The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle: Creation, Valak's title feature fleshes out some of the religious mythology underpinning these movies as a whole, as well as possibly kicking off a third series of films for the canon. Here's the connective tissue that sets up The Nun.
Last updated: September 10, 2018
A Creepy 'Cameo' In Annabelle: Creation
Telling the origin of Annabelle, the universe's primo villain and doll-possessor, Annabelle: Creation operates mostly independently of the rest of the films. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren don't get directly involved with the doll until 1971, four years after the end of Annabelle, and the religious aspect is dialed back to general demonism and the occult.
However, Valak the Nun does make a pair of appearances in Annabelle: Creation. The most obvious is the post-credits tease, in which Valak is seen walking down a candle-lit tunnel in the Romanian monastery, the candles going out as she moves past them. It's your standard next-in-franchise sting and it would be completely removed from the events of either Annabelle feature if it wasn't for another little cameo: the phantom nun also appears in the photo discussed by the repairman and Sister Charlotte, the sister unable to place the figure or remember if she'd noticed them before. It's a simple, subtle and effective nod that establishes the world as the franchise gets more entries.
The Surprise Villain Of The Conjuring 2
For many fans, The Nun will be most recognizable as the nightmarish specter at the core of The Conjuring 2. In the sequel, the Warrens are working with a troubled English family who are haunted by some form of possession. The Warrens' efforts to assist are limited before Lorraine realizes Valak has been blocking her power to detect and diagnose possessions, a revelation that allows them to save the family and condemn Valak to hell, solving the case and adding another item to their growing collection of demonic trinkets and objects.
Valak's pronounced role in The Conjuring 2 is curious given that the nun design was only finalized during post-production. Director James Wan (via Gizmodo) explained that he couldn't get a solid grasp on how he wanted her to look going into shooting, so instead let the process inspire him and use the time he had for reshoots and editing to insert her final form. Valak as we see her – tall, looming, grey-skinned and rotting – was then constructed and added in the last stages, a look that has remained consistent in The Nun.
Even though audiences have seen the ending of Valak's story, her limited appearances so far have left her role in the universe wide open for sequels and follow-ups. Annabelle's had a lot of success for James Wan's franchising of the Warrens' cases, and The Nun hasn't been any different, achieving the most successful opening weekend at the box office - not only compared to other entries in the Conjuring franchise, but also 2018's other horror juggernaut, A Quiet Place. She's been responsible for some of the creepiest moments in the canon so far, and she's (literally) just getting started.