Annabelle Comes Home Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Warner Bros UK
Directed by Gary Dauberman
Written by James Wan and Gary Dauberman
2019, 106 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 12th July 2019
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Mckenna Grace as Judy Warren
Madison Iseman as Mary Ellen
Katie Sarife as Daniela Rios
Michael Cimino as Bob Palmeri
Annabelle Comes Home, the latest addition to The Conjuring franchise, proves to be a fairly classic haunted house tale. It seems that first-time director Gary Dauberman knows his audience - he was the screenwriter for the first two Annabelle films and The Nun, but in this film we pick up directly where the opening scene of The Conjuring left off.
The Warrens, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) collect the haunted doll Annabelle from the fearful owners and affirm that she is best kept under lock and key. Annabelle is one of those creepy Victorian dolls with a flouncy, frilled dress, red-ribband pigtails, a pallid, scratched face, sunken garish eyes and a wide, yet sinister, smile. (Like many creepy dolls since, she resembles the ventriloquist’s dummy in the 1978 thriller Magic, starring Anthony Hopkins).
On their car journey home the doll demonstrates her nastiness, so the Warrens decide that a blessing by a priest may not be enough to neutralise the menace. They agree that the doll is best contained in a secure case made from holy chapel glass which they have in a room in their residence.
Ed and Lorraine’s paranormal investigations have resulted in a chamber stuffed with all the occult artefacts they have gathered from their encounters with the supernatural and which they keep out of circulation. It’s an arcade of macabre items which fulfils the gothic motif of the ‘forbidden locked room that one must not enter’.
The restriction is understood and obeyed by the Warren’s beloved and intelligent 10-year-old daughter Judy, sensitively played by child actress Mckenna Grace. Judy is a surprisingly well-adjusted young girl, if somewhat morose, considering she’s being raised by devoutly religious, ghost-hunting, demonologist parents. It’s not surprising however, that when her Mom and Dad make headlines in the papers for one of their paranormal adventures, Judy is teased and ostracised in school by kids and parents alike.
Fortunately, Judy does have a kind and understanding friend in her teenage babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) who happily agrees to look after her young charge while the Warrens are away on an overnight trip.
Judy has inherited her mother’s gift of clairvoyance and is matter-of-factly mature in her views on death and the afterlife, but the advice she gives to Mary Ellen’s untrustworthy friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) who invites herself over to the house for an impromptu ‘visit’, falls on deaf ears.
It soon becomes clear that Daniela’s visit has only one real purpose – to enter and explore the forbidden room. Her curiosity is explained by her guilt over the death of her father and her determination to discover an afterlife, whatever the cost to herself or those around her. She becomes fixated on breaking into and exploring the Warren’s locked room of supernatural artefacts.
Once Daniela ransacks the office and finds the keys, she lets herself into the room and begins to poke around. Inevitably, despite there being a huge notice on the glass stating - “Positively Do Not Open!”, Daniela is lured into unlocking Annabelle’s case.
Annabelle the doll isn’t possessed - she is dangerous because she is a beacon that attracts dark and evil spirits and also a doorway through which they can pass. It transpires that the most powerfully demonic entity amongst them wants to acquire a human soul.
Not to be taken too seriously, Annabelle Comes Home resembles a frenetic ride on a funfair ghost train - silly, but entertainingly spooky. A jumpy trip through a room full of creaky floorboards, cursed artefacts, inanimate objects bursting into life and ghostly horrors just out of the corner of your eye, until they leap out at you.
Director Dauberman and cinematographer Michael Burgess utilize every blackly open doorway, foggy exterior, badly-lit corridor and dark corner of the Warren house for maximum spookiness, and when the scary stuff starts, the lively ghosts keep on coming.
It’s a fairly conventional premise but Dauberman has fun with it, injecting some wacky humour and getting playful with as many horror clichés as he can muster. He provides a line-up which includes snarling wolves, horned devils, ghostly brides, creepy toys, possessed typewriters and animated armour.
However, after a brief appearance, Wilson and Farmiga and their benevolent charm is somewhat missed and underscores the flimsiness of the story. We can barely engage with the super-perfect Mary Ellen or comprehend why she would be so friendly with the sneaky Daniela who, despite occasional efforts to make her sympathetic, is stubbornly set on inviting all kinds of danger on herself, her friend and a child, simply to satisfy her own selfish needs. She learns her lesson.
But I guess all that isn’t really the point - I suspect that Annabelle Comes Home aims primarily to provide a crazy thrill-ride. All of which may indicate that, just as we might have feared that the Conjuring Universe was approaching its own demise, it seems like there may be some madcap, spooky life left in it yet.
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