Annabelle Comes Home is a solid entry in the Conjuring series of films and is an admirable first-time directorial effort for Gary Dauberman. However the story doesn’t always work.
There’s an inherent curiosity in horror films that has drawn me toward them as an adult; perhaps it’s the carnage, or maybe the mayhem that ensues. Perhaps I’m just demented with a macabre sense of humor – the horror films that I avoided as a kid are more than a passing interest for me. I’m drawn into them more for the technical aspects of the filmmaking.
The technical side of these stories was one of the varied reasons why I sat down in a darkened theater to watch Annabelle Comes Home, which opens in theaters this weekend.
First time director Gary Dauberman has extensive background on this film’s antagonist and horror in general having written Annabelle, Annabelle Creation, IT and The Nun. Yet, when I reflect on Annabelle Comes Home, I am left with an empty feeling.
No, the empty feeling is not the glass case used to house Annabelle. My feeling has more to do with the fact that Dauberman’s narrative structure, who co-wrote the story with series’ producer James Wan, felt exceptionally limp.
The problem with the story is within the characters. Yes, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) are an integral part of the story, as they bring Annabelle to rest. Knowing that simply locking Annabelle in a box is insufficient, the Warrens have a priest’s holy blessing to keep Annabelle’s evil at bay.
With Annabelle secured, the Warrens focus on their family while continuing their demonology exploits. Their grown-up daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace) has become the subject of ridicule at school because of her parents, but a protective neighbor, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) defends her, while Daniela (Katie Sarife) marvels after the idea that those who have left us can return.
The Warrens leave Judy in Mary Ellen’s care for an overnight and that’s when the fun begins. I say fun because Annabelle Comes Home has an exceptionally strong fun-house atmosphere. Sure, some of the jump scares are probably a little tried and true, but once Annabelle is on the loose, the women’s worlds are turned upside down and inside out.
I really enjoyed Mckenna Grace’s performance; she had an innocence about her that amped up the tension while at the same time, because she knew what her parents did for a living, the character’s innocence was reserved. Madison Iseman did an effective job at playing coy and then getting creeped out by the whole experience.
My biggest disappointment and the reason why I think the film doesn’t work as well as it could is with Daniela. I thought Katie Sarife’s performance was strong, but the character’s motivations weren’t believable.
I suppose for the time the film is set in and her own situation, the context makes sense, but the bond between the three girls doesn’t gel.
Annabelle Comes Home works on a technical level, but the story leaves a lot to be desired. Still, this film has me curious about the rest of the Conjuring universe that Warner Bros. has embarked on and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
Annabelle Comes Home is rated R and is in theaters now.