“Annabelle Comes Home” is a horror movie that is built from the so-called “Conjuring Extended Universe”. This all started with a mildly interesting story about the real-life Warrens (a husband and wife team of actual ‘Ghostbusters’). In the movie “The Conjuring”, one of the many haunted or cursed objects that Ed and Lorraine Warren have safely stored at their home is a doll named Annebelle. It is frightful to look at, and it has a powerful curse set upon it. But since it has been securely locked behind a pane of glass taken from a church, and it has been blessed with Holy Water by a priest, then it now should be really, really safe. Especially when it has a sign on the glass container that states “Warning: Positively Do Not Open”. That is more than enough to keep everyone away, right?
Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) have just completed a job where they resolved the issues with the murderous results of the doll Annabelle. A priest helps them exorcise any evil spirits out of the doll, so they take it and store it in a glass cage in their house. It is behind a Holy Glass curtain, so all the “evil has been contained”. The Warrens have a young daughter named Judy (Mckenna Grace). She knows that her parents have a room full of odd objects, and now Annabelle is just one more curiosity. They live in a very nice neighborhood for the 60’s, with some nice orange shag carpeting and bright floral wallpaper that is just as scary as Annabelle.
About a year later, the Warrens need travel out-of-town for a weekend. They get a nice level-headed girl named Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) to babysit Judy. They trust that she will be a good guardian, and not invite any boys or wild girlfriends over the house. And especially not to go into the off-limits, locked-up-tight-as-a-drum special Occult Objects room.That works out just as they had planned. Mary Ellen did not invite any dim-wit girlfriends over. Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) invites herself over and comes in the back door. So as soon as you can say “Don’t go into that room, Dingbat”, Daniela finds the keys, unlocks the door and gets access to the Occult Objects room.
Before you can conjure up a reason, everything in there has been disturbed and the evil Annabelle has been unleashed. Again. So, again slowly and with maximum scare value – the three girls in the house get all types of demon trouble. There is a multitude of evil spirits on the loose, all led by Annabelle. The game of cat-and-mouse continues all night long, with all the convenient ‘horror movie’ tropes playing out. The lights/lantern/candle/flashlight will go out – of course it is right at the point when something scary will jump out. The doors shut or open by themselves, but only with a long and sinister creaking sound. The best strategy is not to stay together, when you can have much more spooky experience when each girl goes off by herself.
Of course, all (JUMP SCARES) scenes of (SHRILL STRINGS) domestic tranquility (SUDDEN DARKNESS) are soon forgotten, as a (TILTED CAMERA ANGLE) heavy fog envelopes the house (SILENCE, THEN SCREAMS). The doll Annabelle (SCRATCHY VIOLIN NOISES) seems to be everywhere in the house (SCARY IMAGES) as she goes looking for a soul to take (EXTREME CLOSE UP OF FACE). But good thing that the Warrens are coming back in the morning, because, if not – they might all be dead by then.
The Warrens are at the beginning of this movie and then return for the final few minutes. Everything in between is the chaos of evil caused mainly by Annabelle. But if the ditzy dummy did not make it a point to IGNORE every sign posted on the door and on the wall, then there would not be much of a movie. Yes, it takes just one idiot to ruin a sleep-over. But all of the girls eventually figure out how to band together and defeat the unleashed evil demons. Ya know, it would have been a lot safer in the house – if you had not UNLEASHED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. But the Horror movie has to get in some Horror. There is actually not that much real horror, gore, or even super scary things. Nobody dies in the movie and there is no blood. In fact, the hideous floral wallpaper might be the really scariest thing in the entire movie.
The first-time director Gary Dauberman has learned the scare techniques very well. He has the right touch to hold a shot and make you think, “Wait, did I just see something move back there in the shadow?”. The actors are good enough for this spooky story. But the long-serving Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have played the Warrens for so many movie – that they just feel natural in those roles (or maybe they are just bored). Mckenna Grace (as Judy) is supposed to be the daughter of character Lorraine Warren. So it does help that she also has a resemblance to Vera Farmiga. The production values of the crazy 60’s suburban chic style is spot on. Including the unfortunately scary wallpaper.
“Annabelle Comes Home” has very limited horror for a horror movie, and in the end is nothing to write HOME about…
Annabelle Comes Home
Directed by: Gary Dauberman
Screenplay by: Gary Dauberman
Story by: Gary Dauberman, James Wan
Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga
Length: 106 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and terror