- Director: Gary Dauberman
- Cast: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga,Patrick Wilson
- Storyline: When Annbelle is let out of her case, she wreaks havoc on the Warren household
At the get-go, it’s very evident that the doll called Annabelle is not possessed. Through some mysterious albeit malicious energy, she’s become a conduit for sinister forces around her. This fact alone makes Annabelle more dangerous than any entity that preys on living or inanimate hosts, as she can bring them all to life to haunt people. It’s this sliver of a premise that is stretched out into an hour-and-a-half of oppressive jump scare after another in Annabelle Comes Home. Gary Dauberman (writer of previous Annabelle films and The Nun) makes his directorial debut with the latest film in The Conjuring franchise. It’s the origin story of how demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren came to ‘possess’ the cursed doll.
In Annabelle Comes Home, the Warrens’ daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) with maturity far beyond her years is cruelly ostracised at school because of her parents’ professions. She can see spirits and a deceased priest from her school keeps popping up. Her benevolent babysitter and only friend, a sympathetic Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) ends up inviting a friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) to hang out when the Warrens are out of town. Daniela, grieving the loss of her father, seeks answers in the Warrens’ room of cursed objects, persistently snooping where she shouldn’t and touching what ought to be left alone. Predictably, Annabelle sparks all the spirits trapped in the room to wreak havoc on the three girls.
It’s disappointing that Dauberman underestimates his audiences, at a time when horror has evolved to transcend primitive fright methods. His tricks of choice: horned devils, cursed wedding dresses and moving objects seem too trite for 2019. Worse still, is the relentless scare after another with no real application of nuance. Lights conveniently go out after which flashlights malfunction and spectres loom in the dark to victimise three human girls.
Dauberman, though must be lauded for successfully injecting humour in what is otherwise a glib film. Mary Ellen’s object of affection, Bob (Michael Cimino) gets his own running gag that gives Annabelle Comes Home, an endearing vintage teen horror patina. It’s arguably the first film in the franchise to successfully incorporate humour, however little of it there is. Michael Burgess’ cinematography only accentuates a classic 70s feel.
There are seven films in The Conjuring Universe with three film devoted to Annabelle alone. While this seems a tad excessive, it wouldn’t be if the creators were able to give each film its due. Unfortunately, this is a major miss in The Conjuring universe. But in typical Hollywood fashion, this won’t slow the franchise down: there are already two more films to look forward to.