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The Conjuring 3 release date, cast and story

The Conjuring hit theaters the summer of 2013, one of a handful of horror films in a box office season ruled by action (R.I.P.D., Red 2, and The Wolverine were all released the same month). With a modest budget of $20 million, the "based-on-a-true-story" movie directed by Insidious' James Wan managed to defy expectations, bringing in nearly $42 million its opening weekend alone. 

The Conjuring was the first film in what would become a vast, interconnected horror universe that includes includes spin-offs like The Nun, The Curse of La Llarona, and the hugely successful Annabelle movies. It's also highly regarded by critics — both The Conjuring and 2016's The Conjuring 2 boast strong "fresh" ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Now, the third Conjuring film is on its way. While the The Conjuring 3 won't arrive in theaters until September of 2020, there's plenty of information out there to help appease fans until it does. Let's take a look at what we know so far.

The Conjuring 3 release date

When The Nun took nearly $54 million in its opening weekend — essentially making double its production budget back immediately upon arrival — it seemed inevitable that The Conjuring universe would continue to expand (and it already has, with The Curse of La Llarona conquering Easter weekend of 2019 and Annabelle Comes Home opening second only to Toy Story 4 in June). In September 2018, Peter Safran, who's served as producer for all of the Conjuring films to date, spoke with CinemaBlend regarding the future of the franchise and confirmed The Conjuring 3 would begin filming in 2019. "It's actually coming along great," he said. "David Leslie Johnson is working on the screenplay, and I feel pretty confident they will have that one up and running next year."

According to Safran, the film would be ready for theatrical release in 2020, although at the time he wouldn't specify when exactly during the year that would be. Now, we know the exact date we can expect to see Ed and Lorraine Warren return to the big screen. At a CinemaCon presentation in April 2019, Warner Bros. announced that the film is set to hit theaters on September 11, 2020.

Who's coming back for The Conjuring 3?

Obviously, since The Conjuring 3 is a direct continuation of the original film, we can expect for it to center on Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively. Aside from the two leads, however, no other major roles have been confirmed. According to the film's IMDb page, newcomers include Westworld's Ronnie Gene Blevins, who's been cast as a character named Bruno, and Stranger Things' David Michael-Smith, who'll play a Danvers detective. 

Although David Leslie Johnson, who co-wrote The Conjuring 2, has returned as 3's writer, neither Chad Hayes nor Carey W. Hayes — credited writers on the first two films — seem to be coming back for this one. James Wan is attached as a producer (as he is with all the Conjuring universe films), but unlike the previous two flagship films, he will not be in the director's chair.  He's been pretty busy of late, after all — as he told Entertainment Weekly in 2017, "I just don't think it's realistic with my schedule... I'm going to be on Aquaman for a year-and-a-half. I just don't see that as a reality."

Who's directing The Conjuring 3?

With James Wan's schedule preventing him from taking on The Conjuring 3, directorial duties have been passed on to Michael Chaves, a fairly new member of the Conjuring franchise. Chaves was actually discovered by Wan after the release of his horror short "The Maiden." From there, he went on to make his feature directorial debut with 2019's The Curse of La Llorona.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Wan feels confident handing over the reins to Chaves. "Chaves' ability to bring emotion to a story, and his understanding of mood and scares, make him a perfect fit to direct the next Conjuring film," he said, adding that he was excited to return as a producer. 

For Chaves, the opportunity to take on The Conjuring 3 is an incredible one. "I am a huge fan of the Conjuring films," he said. "The movies are the rare combination that delivers both tremendous heart and awesome scares. It is both a total thrill and absolute honor to be working with James and the gang at New Line again."

The scary stories behind The Conjuring 3

While the exact details surrounding The Conjuring 3's plot remain under wraps, producer Peter Safran has confirmed the sequel will have an entirely new setting. He told JoBlo in 2017, "Clearly, we can't do another haunted house movie, right? We can't do another supernatural possession in a house, with a family in peril."

As of 2019, there are two Warren cases that are the most likely contenders for the film. In 2018, Vera Farmiga spoke with Metro and said she was given a book called Werewolf, which could serve as the basis for the movie. "I could be wrong. They could be scrapping it," she said. "But the last I heard it has something to do with some werewolf case." On the other hand, from what James Wan told Bloody Disgusting at the end of 2018, the story could go a completely different direction. "It's this guy who was on trial for committing a murder," he said. "I think it's the first time in America's history where the defendant used possessions as a reason, as an excuse."

The Southend Werewolf

Vera Farmiga's 2018 update on The Conjuring 3's source material points to a possession case about a man known as the Southend Werewolf. In the late '80s, a British man named Bill Ramsey underwent an exorcism with the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren after having exhibited wolf-like behavior since he was nine years old. On an episode of Sightings, Ramsey recounted his first experience, recalling, "Suddenly the air went very cold. There was a stench in the air, and I just flew into the most horrendous rage."

The ordeal would last for years, and Ramsey's episodes became more violent as time went on, to the point that he was sure he would be sent to prison for something he had no control over. The Warrens caught wind of the case and, convinced Ramsey had been possessed, asked him to come to the U.S. to be exorcised. "I believe that I was ultimately possessed by the Devil," he told Sightings afterwards.

The "Devil Made Me Do It" case

The second possible basis for The Conjuring 3's story — and the more likely of the two — is the "Devil Made Me Do It" case, which centered on 19-year-old Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who in 1981 stabbed and killed his landlord, Alan Bono, during an argument. Johnson's defense was that he had been possessed by a demon while helping with the exorcism of his girlfriend's 12-year-old brother.

Ed and Lorraine Warren were called in initially to help the younger brother, but came to Johnson's defense when he was charged with Bono's murder. In a 1981 New York Times article, Lorraine Warren said Johnson had challenged the Devil to take him on. "He would actually say, 'Come into me — leave the little lad alone.'" 

When Johnson's story failed to sway a jury, he was ultimately convicted of first-degree manslaughter. Not only does this case seem to match Wan's hints about the third film's plot, but the fact that it took place in 1981 fits better within the Conjuring timeline than the 1989 Bill Ramsey exorcism.

The Conjuring series so far

The Conjuring, which centered on the Perron family and their fight against a Satan-worshipping witch spirit named Bathsheba, introduced audiences not only to the Warrens, but also to two other Conjuring universe entities: Annabelle the doll and Valak the nun-possessing demon. The latter is mentioned only in passing during a lecture, but it sets up both The Conjuring 2 and The Nun. The Conjuring plays out in typical haunted hosue fashion, with the Warrens banishing the demon and saving the Perron family by the end.

In The Conjuring 2, the Warrens go up against Valak, who this time takes the form of "The Crooked Man." This, too, is an exorcism story that takes place in a family home, so it'll be a welcome change to see a new setting in 3. The Warrens have also appeared in Annabelle Comes Home, which takes place a few years prior to The Conjuring 2 and introduces even more potential spin-off characters.

How many films exist in The Conjuring universe?

The Conjuring 3 will mark the eighth entry in the Conjuring universe. Although Ed and Lorraine Warren haven't appeared in every one of the films, each takes inspiration from their real-life case files and adds to their cinematic mythology. Of course, the various spin-offs have not been released in the chronological order of the narrative, so the timeline can be a little confusing.

While The Conjuring was the first film to be made in the series, it's actually the fourth to happen chronologically. 2018's The Nun flashes back to 1952, 2017's Annabelle: Creation takes place in 1955, and 2014's Annabelle brings us to 1967. Both of the 2019 entries, Annabelle Comes Home (1972) and The Curse of La Llorona (1973), are set between the two primary Conjuring movies. It's also worth noting that La Llorona is also the only film in the franchise that isn't directly connected to the Warrens themselves.

Filming has begun on The Conjuring 3

In April 2019, Vera Farmiga spoke with Entertainment Weekly on the set of Annabelle Comes Home and brought up working on The Conjuring 3, which was set to begin production a few months afterward. "Conjuring 3 is coming, and it will be a doozy," she said. "It will be big. So for me, visiting these characters [in Annabelle Comes Home], it's like practicing your scales and doing a few arpeggios before having to dive deep into the next one. Because the next one is massive."

In March 2019, a tweet from DiscussingFilm claimed that "'THE CONJURING 3' is set to begin filming on June 3rd in Atlanta." Meanwhile, a Backstage casting call expiring June 23rd noted that the production was looking for "1980s Looking People" who were willing to grow out their hair for background and extra work. 

Director Michael Chaves shares the first teaser photo

We may not yet have the first trailer for The Conjuring 3, but that doesn't mean its filmmakers are holding everything back. On Michael Chaves' personal website, the director has linked supporting materials related to his work, including trailers and posters. Under the heading for The Conjuring 3, Chaves has posted the first teaser image for the film, along with the Ed Warren quote, "Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow."

The image itself doesn't give much away — a farmhouse, a church, the woods. Honestly, it could have been pulled from either one of the previous Conjuring films. But between its lack of people and its tintype feel, the image does portray an overall sense of creepiness that we're hoping the film will live up to.

Can we expect any new spin-offs after The Conjuring 3?

The ever-expanding Conjuring universe has already seen its fair share of spooky spaces and frightening faces, but according to James Wan, there's more to explore. He told Entertainment Weekly in 2017 that he had always planned to get into the Warrens' entire world, saying, "When we were starting out, when we made the first Conjuring, we always kind of quietly, jokingly, among ourselves, felt that the world of the Warrens, and all the interesting artifacts they have in their haunted room, could have their own stories and therefore spawn movies."

Aside from a possible sequel to The Nun, which Wan told The Hollywood Reporter would make Lorraine Warren's story "come all full circle," there are definite plans for a Crooked Man spin-off, although when that happens is still up in the air. Peter Safran told ComicBook.com in 2019 that it comes down to the audience. "It's not that we won't do Crooked Man, but you kind of have to balance out [the franchise]," he said. "I'm sure that we have ideas of what we want to do beyond this, from the artifact room... The audience will tell us exactly what we should be doing."