Annabelle Comes Home
Starring Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, McKenna Grace, Michael Cimino, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson,
“This movie is both a sequel and a prequel, set between the opening and main plot of the first Conjuring film - an extremely rare occurrence in any genre of film.” That might be a cool byline if you can understand it. Unfortunately, there are so many movies that center around The Warren’s, Annabelle, and the entire Conjuring universe, it’s hard to keep them straight. Let’s be clear, the only one of these movies worth even discussing for its cinematic achievement was the original “Conjuring” directed by James Wan. Everything else, and I mean everything else, is nothing more than Warner Bros squeezing money out of a franchise simply because those who enjoy the horror genre don’t expect much. When it comes to films centering around Annabelle, they are all the same; this one is particularly bad because it had little to do with Farmiga and Wilson who just bookend the story, and collect that franchise check.
After one of their most disturbing cases, paranormal and demonic investigators Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren bring home the Annabelle doll who is a beacon for other spirits. In due course, they leave their young daughter Judy (Grace) along with her babysitter Mary Ellen (Iseman) with strict instructions not to touch anything. However, when Mary Ellen’s best friend Daniela (Sarife) joins the party, her curiosity for what’s behind the locked door will not be stopped. She decides to touch everything and lets Annabelle out of her case resulting in the most terrifying weekend of their lives. Judy might be young, but she has watched her parents work enough that she knows how to fight back against the evil spirits. Like all the other occurrences involving The Warrens, everything turns out fine by the time mom and dad return home.
With “Annabelle Comes Home” you could take multiple 10 minute bathroom breaks and come back to Mary Ellen still walking towards the door.
“Annabelle Comes Home” encounters the same problem as “The Curse of La Llorona.” It’s a film with a poorly written script and hollow characters with nothing interesting to say or offer. Gary Dauberman’s writing on “Annabelle Creation” and “The Nun” was bad enough, but his script for “Annabelle Coming Home” and the fact they let him direct, shows how much of an assembly line this franchise has become. Dauberman’s idea of horror is nothing more but scene after scene of frightened women slowly walking down dark hallways and corridors. Running at nearly two hours long, a large portion of this film is Iseman, Sarife, and McKenna individually hearing noises and then walking, in what looks like slow motion, up to a door, closet, or artifact. It’s enough to put the viewer to sleep. One of the elements that made “The Conjuring” work so well was the group interactions (and significantly higher quality acting). This script keeps the characters isolated so we have to watch their storylines, all in the same house mind you, play out one at a time.
Dauberman seems aware of his own clichés and decided to play with the audience expectations of jump scares. The music and the slow panning, where a character has an object obstructing their view or their back turned, is typically where we get those cheap jumps. This time the lead in is the same, but the first hour is nothing but a tease and the scares coming more out of nowhere. If the film has a silver lining, it’s the soft spot the audience instantly finds for “Bob has balls.” Michael Cimino is pretty adorable as the shy and meek kid trying to impress Mary Ellen, but he is also the only character being terrorized who doesn’t walk around like a 95-year-old at a rest home when he hears something scary. Rule of thumb when watching a good horror movie, if the audience is talking to each other or at the screen during the movie, that means they are not engaged with what’s going on. Original horror movies like Hereditary, Get Out, and A Quiet Place, hook the viewer and pull them in so deeply you can usually hear a pin drop it’s so quiet. They require the audience to focus and pay attention. With “Annabelle Comes Home” you could take multiple 10-minute bathroom breaks and come back to find Mary Ellen still walking towards the door.
Annabelle should stay home and never go out again.