David F. Sandberg discusses building The Conjuring cinematic universe with Annabelle: Creation
Last Saturday, Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema took over WonderCon‘s Arena stage to tease their upcoming slate, including the August 11 release Annabelle: Creation. Fans who weren’t able to make it to the Anaheim, California event also got a sneak peek at the horror spinoff prequel as the first Annabelle: Creation trailer went online right after the panel. That’s precisely when CS went backstage to catch up with director David F. Sandberg. Sandberg, who made his feature film debut with last year’s horror hit Lights Out, chatted with us about his expansion of The Conjuring universe. Sandberg has also has been rumored to take on the DC Comics adaptation Shazam!
Annabelle: Creation tells the tale of a dollmaker and his wife who, several years after the tragic death of their little girl, welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home. Very soon, however, they become the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle. The cast includes Stephanie Sigman (SPECTRE), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), Lulu Wilson (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Deliver Us from Evil), Philippa Coulthard (After the Dark), Grace Fulton (Badland), Lou Lou Safran (The Choice), Samara Lee (Foxcatcher, The Last Witch Hunter), Tayler Buck in her feature film debut, with Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) and Miranda Otto (Homeland, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).
CS: You were at WonderCon last year just before the release of your first film, “Lights Out.” What’s the biggest difference for you between then and now.
David F. Sandberg: Just having learned so much. In part, that was in the filmmaking process. I had never been on a real film set before. I didn’t know how everything worked there. Now, I’ve been through the whole process, from making a movie to doing interviews and panels and things like that. Those were just overwhelming the first time. Now it’s like, “Oh, okay!” I know what it is and how to deal with it. It feels way more relaxed.
CS: Does that insight help you pick the right bits of the film to tease crowds like this with?
David F. Sandberg: To be honest, it’s more marketing picking out these things. When we went to SXSW, we showed off two clips, so we wanted to show something new here. This was a scene that I really liked and one that I have shown to audiences that gets a great reaction.
CS: In both “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation,” you’re working with child actors. Is that something for which you feel a particular skill?
David F. Sandberg: It’s funny. You hear people say, “Never work with animals or kids.” I used to think that that was about kids sucking as actors. But that’s not the case, at least not with any of the kids I’ve worked with. They’re all fantastic actors and they’re so dedicated. They show up on time. They know all the lines. They’re super professional. The only drawback and the real reason not to work with them is the hours. You only get a set amount of hours. Once you reach that time, it’s over. The kid’s out. When you work with an adult, you keep going with a scene until you’re done with it. So that’s kind of stressful in working with a child actor.
CS: Do you ever have to worry about it getting too scary?
David F. Sandberg: They all sort of loved it! They loved being in a horror movie. They thought it was a lot of fun. Lulu Wilson, who is in this, is sort of a horror movie pro now. She already had her own horror movie with “Ouija: Origin of Evil.” It was funny. She recently did a comedy because her mom was like, “Maybe you should try doing something different?” So she did a comedy and was like, “No, I like horror movies. They’re more fun.”
CS: How much work is involved making sure “Annabelle” fits properly into the world of “The Conjuring”?
David F. Sandberg: There is a timeline for “The Conjuring,” “Annabelle” and “The Nun.” This has its place in that timeline, but it’s also a standalone film. You don’t necessarily have to have seen any of them, but it’s great if you have because there’s a little references to them. They do tie together.
CS: What it offer you having a scary story told in a specific era?
David F. Sandberg: There’s something about horror movies set in the past that makes them more creepy. Part of it is that they don’t have cell phones. Not that that necessarily is going to stop you. Even if you call the police, it can take a while for them to get here. You can still be killed. But there’s something creepier about the past.
CS: Do you think that horror is something that’s always going to be connected to what you do?
David F. Sandberg: Yeah, in some way. I want to keep making horror movies, but I also want to make other types of movies. But you can always fit some horror in there. Suspense is related to horror very closely.
CS: Your name has been rumored for the DC Comics adaptation “Shazam.” Is that happening?
David F. Sandberg: The thing is, I’ve been super lucky. I’ve only been here two years. “Lights Out” did really well. They’re very excited with how “Annabelle” turned out. There’s a lot of exciting things ahead that I look forward to being able to talk about.
CS: Do you keep up with modern horror or are you primarily a fan of classic horror?
David F. Sandberg: Absolutely! The fun thing is now is that it’s so easy. I grew up in the VHS era in Sweden. All the way up to the ’90s, there as still censorship on video. I had to take the train to Gothenburg to this store that imported horror movies from other places. Because you couldn’t rent them and because I could only buy so many movies, I couldn’t see them all. Now that we have streaming services like Shudder, I can finally catch up on all the movies that I saw the covers for, but that I didn’t get to see. It’s really cool. I would have loved to have all that available as a teenager, the way you can stream all these obscure movies in your home. There are movies that I love that I can just there and watch. For some reason, if modern horror movies are bad, they’re boring. But movies from the past, even if they’re bad, they’re entertaining.