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How The Conjuring became the Marvel of horror

The Warren’s case files have helped create a shockingly successful horror universe.

Edward Vega joined the Vox video team as a video producer in 2021. His coverage focuses on all things cinema, from the intricacies of film history to the nuts and bolts of filmmaking.

There are franchises, and then there are shared universes.

Movies like Halloween, Scream, and The Exorcist are all successful horror franchises. For the most part, they follow one continuous story. Their sequels, re-quels, and reboots all tend to center around the same villain we’ve known since the beginning.

But The Conjuring is different. Every new film pulls on threads from presumed real-life hauntings, creating a wider universe — much like the Marvel Cinematic universe. Except instead of building out its roster of heroes, The Conjuring builds out a roster of villains.

Lorraine and Ed Warren.
Getty Images

The Conjuring’s universe is based on the case files of two of the most famous paranormal investigators of all time: Ed and Lorraine Warren. Whether or not their stories were 100 percent true is debatable, but one thing was clear: They make for great entertainment.

Their case files have been used as the basis for horror films since the ’70s, but they really gained traction in 2013 with The Conjuring.

Movie poster for The Conjuring that shows a two-story house in the distance and a skeletal tree with a noose hanging from it in the foreground.
The Conjuring movie poster.
Warner Bros.

In the 10 years since, The Conjuring has become the highest-grossing horror franchise of all time.

A chart showing the money made by horror movies, with The Conjuring line being tallest at $2.13 billion.
Highest-grossing horror franchises.
Edward Vega with data from Collider

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