Annabelle Comes Home stars Mckenna Grace (TV’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Gifted,” “Captain Marvel”) as Judy; Madison Iseman (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween”) as her babysitter, Mary Ellen; and Katie Sarife (TV’s “Youth and Consequences” and “Supernatural”) as troubled friend Daniela; with Patrick Wilson (“Aquaman,” “The Conjuring” and “Insidious” films) and Vera Farmiga (“The Conjuring” films, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” TV’s “Bates Motel”) reprising their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Dauberman directed the film from a screenplay he wrote, from a story by Dauberman & Wan. Richard Brener, Dave Neustadter, Victoria Palmeri, Atomic Monster’s Michael Clear, Michelle Morrissey, and Atomic Monster’s Judson Scott served as executive producers.
Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren bring the possessed doll to the locked artifacts room in their home, placing her “safely” behind sacred glass and enlisting a priest’s holy blessing. But an unholy night of horror awaits as Annabelle awakens the evil spirits in the room, who all set their sights on a new target—the Warrens’ ten-year-old daughter, Judy, and her friends.
I have to admit I am fairly new to The Conjuring universe. I came to the party incredibly late and have been catching up in readiness for this movie. But by the time the curtains opened and the lights went down I had a fairly good idea about what to expect from Annabelle Comes Home.
The movie centres on Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they bring home the titular doll to store in their occult museum. The pair then depart for a night away and leave daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) with babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) whilst her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) sneaks over and inadvertently opens the door to all of the spirits in the house.
I do feel there has been some subterfuge in the marketing of Annabelle Comes Home but only in its billing. Wilson and Farmiga are really only cameos in this movie, appearing to bookend the main story which focuses on the younger characters.
Still it’s great to see both back in this movie and I will follow Vera Farmiga to the end of time in every franchise because she it just amazing. There’s a warmth to her Lorraine which really makes her motherly. Her closing scene with Daniele is very touching and shows a maturity that one doesn’t always expect from this type of movie.
The young cast are also well suited to their roles. Mckenna Grace is destined for bigger things, hopefully in and out of the horror genre, and really holds things together. Madison Iseman seems genuinely scared of everything around her but there’s also a strength to her character which made her incredibly amiable to watch.
Less could be said of Daniela played by Kate Sarife. I spent much of the movie deriding her for causing all the trouble in the first place but she had her reasons. In the end her bond with Judy does help strengthen both characters.
A special shout out to Michael Cimino as Bob, a character who seems shoehorned in to the movie. So much so that at one point he actively avoids entering the house whilst being chased by the Hellhound even as other characters are heading for the door. He just sort of drops in and drops out as necessary. Reshoot addition perhaps?
The crux of the main story is incredibly easy to understand, as it needs to be in a horror movie. Director Gary Dauberman knows all too well that the audience are showing up for the scares and not a weighty story and he executes that perfectly here.
Even as someone still acclimatising to this world I was able to completely follow everything which was going on and obvious references were easy to pick up and understand.
The whole move is laden with throwbacks and Easter eggs. The occult museum room alone features almost every artefact seen in previous movies as well as others which relate to the history of the real life Warren’s.
What intrigued me most about Annabelle Comes Home was how it took some of the haunting elements of the franchise and pushed the boundaries of what they were willing to show on film.
The Hellhound forming out of the rolling mist felt particularly boundary pushing as well as the return of the goat-like demon attached to Annabelle. If the previous movies felt haunting then this one certainly feels more demonic.
Highlight moments were easily the fake-out with Lorraine’s map early in the movie. A moment which had me almost covering my eyes in sheer anticipation of what wasn’t to come.
Other highlights were any scene featuring the Ferryman, a character clearly bound for a spinoff given the amount of backstory and development shown in just a handful of scenes here. His appearance and that of those accompanying him with pennies on their eyes was some of the best work in the movie and certainly had our audience reaching for the cushions.
Somethingabout Annabelle Comes Home reminded me of watching Thirteen Ghosts and I mean that in a good way. The variation in creatures as well as the inventive makeup and costume design really made each of the characters stand out in their own right.
But the movie isn’t without its pitfalls. An early comment about not all spirits being evil felt a little too pointed not to be of importance later in the movie. Sure enough to does come in to play later on and that isn’t the only plot contrivance.
But there was nothing to derail the movie from being an enjoyable, if mildly terrifying, cinematic experience.
Annabelle Comes Home is a wild ride through The Conjuring universe. It calls back to plenty of moments from previous movies whilst also blowing the world wide open to the possibility of future spinoffs.
Some awkward humour does detract from the scares but overall Annabelle is still a terrifying and satisfying experience.
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