WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2019)
Director: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Michael Cimino
This sounds like a feelgood ‘80s movie.
The Annabelle spin-off series is 50-50 for me so far. Annabelle was really disappointing whereas the sequel, Annabelle: Creation, was actually pretty damn good as far as modern horror movies go. The Conjuringverse itself is a mixed bag and the past two offerings, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona, have been borderline awful. So, when in doubt, bring back the doll and in Annabelle Comes Home, we get plenty of the evil doll once more.
Where Creation gave the origin story of a…doll, Annabelle Comes Home is all about what happens when you leave the doll alone with the kids and babysitters. After the Warren’s (again played by Farmiga and Wilson) retrieved the cursed doll, they took it back to their room of demonic antiquities and locked it away, keeping the evil behind glass. When the seal is broken by a babysitter, the evil doll awakens the rest of the nasties within the room leading to a night of terror and survival for the Warren’s daughter Judy (Grace) and her babysitters Mary (Iseman) and Daniela (Sarife). It’s a fairly standard horror movie where things go bump in the night before exploding into full-on stalker/cat-and-mouse frolics. The big question is – what way are the scales tipping? Which way is the Annabelle franchise going 3 for 2? Actually, neither. Annabelle Comes Home lands right in the middle, it’s neither good nor particularly bad – it’s frustrating. Gary Dauberman (in his directorial debut, having written the previous entries in the saga) crafts some decent scares but manages to undercut those with stock horror clichés and convention, at times at the detriment of the scare itself. There are some great moments (generally involving the doll) and some that just leave you rolling your eyes HARD – especially when it concerns Katie Sarife’s Danielle and her abysmal decision making. Dauberman utilises the Annabelle doll actually quite well and, visually, she contributes a lot to the creepier moments of the movie – whether staring from a glass case, nestled in a bed or watching from under the chair, she creates a presence that the rest of the movie doesn’t capitalise on.
The opening salvo reminds the viewer again that the Annabelle doll herself is not possessed, there is no demon within the inanimate object. She is simply a conduit of evil, a lightning rod that attracts the worst of the worst – which, the more I think about it, is a bit odd. In a movie (and universe) where things come to life willy-nilly, the central evil just sits there. To be fair, I’m glad we don’t see the doll wandering about but amongst the other sites, it just seems bizarre. However, Dauberman throws everything else at the viewer, nothing quite as ridiculous as The Crooked Man, but not far off. Samurai armour, chattering monkeys, coin-eyed ghouls are amongst the things that are after our heroines and there are some decent visuals to be found in some of these, though the scares are undercooked and underutilised especially with old Coin Eyes. Everything feels a bit…restrained. Speaking of our heroines, young Mckenna Grace is solid leading the movie and Madison Iseman is fine also. Sarife suffers from poor writing but does the best she can with that she has. However, the pure blonde and naughty brunette schtick was pretty bad from the get-go. Just…just don’t. Michael Cimino’s Bob allows for some fun and cutesie comedy which helped alleviate some of the sameyness. The Warren’s house (where the entirety of the movie takes place) has some horrifying décor, some real 70s nasty wallpaper and carpets, so that’s terrifying in itself. Though the movie opens with Freda Payne’s marvellous Band of Gold the rest of the soundtrack/score is fairly vanilla.
Whether movie seven in a saga should be reinventing the wheel is up for debate, but this saga really needs a shot in the arm. Box office returns are one thing, but each movie seems to blend into one now and not in a good way. Annabelle Comes Home isn’t a bad movie, in fact, it’s pretty good at times, it’s just really inconsistent and works hard to undermine itself just as things start to get going. Maybe The Conjuring 3 can deliver a nasty horror movie akin to the original, but I’m not hopeful.
June 27th 2019