Annabelle Comes Home, 2019.
Directed by Gary Dauberman
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, and Katie Sarife.
While babysitting the daughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a teenager and her friend unknowingly awaken an evil spirit trapped in a doll.
While fans of The Conjuring series wait for the proper third instalment in the horror franchise from James Wan, they can at least be satisfied with Annabelle Comes Home, the third film in the Annabelle spin-off series that directly features the Warren family in a prequel to the first Conjuring, as they can now literally take Annabelle home with its blu-ray release. Annabelle Comes Home offers a creepy atmosphere buoyed by a good and young cast, but there’s not really enough to make it interesting or truly scary.
The most notable aspect of Annabelle’s latest horror rampage is the chemistry between McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife. The film revolves around Iseman’s Mary babysitting Judy Warren, a role Grace has taken over from The Conjuring‘s Sterling Jerins as a slightly younger version of Judy, with Sarife’s Daniela crashing their evening and inadvertently unleashing Annabelle upon them. The trio make a pretty good team and deliver a lot of youthful energy to the film’s proceedings. Strife in particular stands out as Daniela is seemingly a self-centered and condescending friend, but reveals there is more to her than snarky remarks in her friendships with Mary and Judy and the deep personal reason why she unwittingly releases Annabelle. On the adult side, Conjuring veterans Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do well with the material they’re given, but are relegated more like extended cameos as they set up the story’s premise but don’t come back again until near the end of the film.
Despite the strength of the three core cast members, they can’t hold Annabelle Comes Home up on their own. For much of the film’s second and third acts Grace, Iseman and Sarife are split apart. It is a bit of a trade off because while some of the scares they each experience are creepy their dynamic is lost for a good chunk of time. Similarly, even though Annabelle is the main antagonist and the titular star, she is barely in the film herself once things pick up. Her power is so evil and dangerous that it attracts other powerful spirits from the Warren’s locked room to attack the girls at her command. It does raise her threat level and explains why the Warrens are so wary of Annabelle, but it is also a bit disappointing since so many of the scares are given to other entities new to the franchise.
That said, there are some genuinely creepy moments that director Gary Dauberman delivers. Much of that is succeeded through the film’s cinematography which builds upon the tension in clever ways. It always places you right with one of the characters as they explore a room or encounter one of the spirits. Mary’s scene with the Ferryman early on in the evening is one of more memorable scenes thanks to the way it was shot and lit. The mix of practical and special effects is well done and the new spirits the film introduces are interesting, though a couple don’t feel as original as they could have been. The Bloody Bride for instance feels a bit too similar to The Curse of La Lorona‘s title figure. There are also several points where Annabelle Comes Home fakes you out with a scare, making you anticipate something only for nothing to happen. The trope happens a little too often to the point that it gets tired after a while.
The bonus features included offer some nice insight into how the spirits were created as well as interesting facts about the real Ed and Lorraine Warren, though again even though this is Annabelle Comes Home, there is strangely not a feature dedicated to the doll itself. However, half of one feature does focus on the demon that inhabits the doll, though it is more from a make-up standpoint as well as the actor underneath. The features are:
Demon/The Ferryman (5:18) – Actor Alexander Ward and costume designer Leah Butler talks about the make-up process for him as the Annabelle Demon and The Ferryman. It’s a cool look at the work that went into the costumes, revealing it took 3 1/2 – 4 hours for Ward to become the Demon, and how he created the movements for the spirits.
The Bloody Bride (3 min) – Actress Natalia Safran discusses becoming the Bloody Bride with a focus on how they created the wedding dress and its vintage inspiration.
The Werewolf (3 min) – Focuses on the design of the werewolf and how Dauberman and Wan wanted it to feel different from other versions of werewolves. A lot of practical effects went into the wolf, specifically the sequence where it tears apart the car roof. Though the werewolf is not entirely as original as the filmmakers hoped, the practical work makes you appreciate its placement.
The Artifact Room and The Occult (5 min) – The Warrens’ supernatural artifact room is one of the most famous aspects to the couple. This feature explores some of the real life objects in the film, with an appearance from Judy Sperra, Ed and Lorraine’s real daughter, but more discusses which ones they introduced in the previous Conjuring films and Annabelle Comes Home and how they chose which ones to focus on. They also tease how some objects might even be setting up future spin-offs to The Conjuring Universe.
The Light and the Love (4:26) – This focuses on the relationship between the Warrens, both the cinematic and real life versions as Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga discuss their inspiration for their roles and why the real Ed and Lorraine seem unlike any other couple. For those unfamiliar with the Warrens’ story, it is an interesting look at their relationship, faith and work. The filmmakers also talk about the excitement at bringing the Conjuring and Annabelle films together in this prequel. It is strange, though, given their relatively short screentime they get a whole feature to themselves.
Deleted Scenes (11:29) – Collection of deleted scenes, including a slightly alternate ending where the girls face off against Annabelle. None really scream to be included in the film and its easy to see why they were cut.
Annabelle Comes Home is entertaining enough thanks to the core cast of Grace, Iseman and Sarife as well as the film’s creepy atmosphere, though the fake-outs make some of the scares a tad predictable and some of the spirits not as compelling as they could have been. The cinematography does elevate the film’s quality though as it helps the creep factor, but its still not quite enough. Fans will enjoy the bonus features, though a little more time for Annabelle, both in the film and the features, would have been welcome.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.