Out this week in cinemas is Annabelle Comes Home. The third installment in the Annabelle franchise and the seventh installment in The Conjuring Universe.
Starring Mckenna Grace as Judy Warren the young daughter of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Annabelle Comes Home is the story of what happens when the feisty doll Annabelle gets let loose in the Warren household. You may wonder why this is a big deal. Well, it’s a simple one really.
The Warren’s have accumulated a treasure trove of occult artifacts each with a malevolent spirit within it and unfortunately, Annabelle is an object which focuses their spiritual energy as a devastating weapon. It’s a recipe for disaster. Thankfully though the Warren’s have her locked up tight behind Vatican blessed glass. Nothing could pssibly go wrong, apologies that’s the first thing to go wrong.
The premise of the film is set up quite nicely with the Warren’s leaving Judy with her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) for the weekend. They’re off to do the thing they do best, be heroes or hoaxes. This is something young Judy worries about as she has no friends in school. She’s being bullied for what her parents do and it weighs on her.
Thankfully Mary Ellen is the best babysitter ever and is arranging an early birthday party for Judy just the two of them. That is until Mary Ellen’s bestie Daniela (Katie Sarife) invites herself over to the Warren’s home. She has a fascination in the occult and cannot believe Mary Ellen didn’t tell her she babysat for the infamous occult investigators.
She makes her way into the forbidden room where Annabelle resides and from there s**t gets real.
Annabelle Comes Home but was it worth it?
What Annabelle Comes Home continues in The Conjuring Universe is the exploration of characters. Each character in Annabelle Comes Home has relatable motivations and you understand where they’re coming from. Daniela could have easily been that character who awakens the evil and dies in a stupidly horrendous way. Instead, the film gives her an emotional journey as to why she does what she does. It’s relatable an human and I respected that.
Also, Judy and Mary Ellen have a great rapport bouncing off each other much like a babysitter and her young charge should have. There’s also a fascinating role reversal when the film kicks off because Judy is more informed in the supernatural than Mary Ellen. These three are excellent in their roles, especially Iseman and Sarife who have a believable friendship.
As his directorial debut, Dauberman seems to understand what works for a horror film and he should he’s been a part of The Conjuring Universe since the first Annabelle. In the opening third of the film, he has set up one of the two elements that make a horror compelling. You’ve got a group of characters that you care about and worry about especially in such a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, when it comes to the second part, the horror Annabelle Comes Home doesn’t ring the proverbial bell.
Please go away Annabelle
Dauberman recycles some of the setups that better directors have done in previous iterations of The Conjuring Universe. Not only that many of the scares are telegraphed when the characters discuss the M.O.’s of each deadly spirit. It’s amateurish and leaves no mystery. You’re always looking for something new and innovative when it comes to horror and we’ve been spoilt with the majority of films from James Wan. It also takes a surprisingly long time to get into the meat of the horror and even when it does its nothing especially impressive.
There are of course exceptions. One particular favourite of mine is the Ferryman. He collects souls and his design is absolutely fascinating. The cinematography kicks it up a notch when he comes to play with Mary Ellen, Judy, and Daniela. I will say the score of the film is suitably dread-inducing. Especially in the beginning when you don’t know where the story will take you.
I would be remiss to not mention one of the biggest failures of the film. The hellhound. This ridiculous CGI disaster is a kind of werewolf and the section of the story it’s a part of should have been stricken from the plot. It would have saved on time and would have focused the narrative. Worst of all, the werewolf feels out of place in this world of demons and spirits.
Annabelle Comes Home should have been a monstrous and wickedly terrifying horror funhouse. With the demonic item Annabelle surrounded by a literal room of horrors at its disposal, this film should have been something phenomenal.
Instead, it feels like the Goosebumps film sans Jack Black.