Director: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Michael Cimino, Samara Lee
Written by: (also story) Gary Dauberman and (story) James Wan
Running Time: 106 mins
Release date: 10th July 2019
If you are a regular reader of my reviews, you will know I have a hate/hate relationship with the Conjuring series of films, even though the original wasn’t too bad, the rest have been predictable, lacking in originality and just not scary. Now we get Annabelle Comes Homes, in which the doll from the first film and two sequels, is the focal point. I went in with low expectations, but I have to say that I came out pleasantly surprised.
Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren bring home the possessed doll, Annabelle, where it is locked up in an artefacts room of their home, being placed in a cabinet made of scared glass. Having to leave town, the Warrens leave their daughter, Judy, with babysitter Mary Ellen. When Daniela comes over, curiosity gets the better of her, and she enters the artefacts room, where she opens Annabelle’s case. Releasing the doll means releasing all kinds of horror.
The writer of the previous Annabelle films, Gary Dauberman, takes over directing duties. While it has all the usual traits of the series, with the quiet, quiet bang style of terror, most of which are signposted miles before they actually happen. What is different this time is that instead of spending the whole running time with dark corners and eerie silences, Dauberman doesn’t rush into the scares but allows plenty of time for character development with the main three young girls.
Judy is bullied for being the child of the Warrens, whose notoriety has spread through the town. It’s her birthday, and yet no one wants to come to her party. Her only friend is Mary Ellen, the pretty babysitter who has more brains than usually associated with this kind of character. She doesn’t make ridiculous decisions, and she is far more than just a pretty face. There’s a sweet side story in which a local boy catches her eye, and yet the pair are far too shy to do anything about it.
Then there is Daniela, the friend of Mary Ellen who is more than just the goofy sidekick who sets the horror in action. She has a backstory that gives her reason to want to enter the Warrens scared room. No cheap dares, no contrived curiosity but a proper purpose that makes her more than just a one-dimensional character. When the scares do come, if you can call them that, you still care about the three girls and what happens to them, which makes this a much more worthwhile experience than just cheap thrills and fairground chills.
With decent character developments, the lead females are well cast. Young McKenna Grace recently announced to be starring in the new Ghostbusters film, is perfectly spooky as Judy, the girl who just so happens to have a few powers of her own. Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife, as Mary Ellen and Daniela, give their characters more depth than you’d expect in a horror film, while the return of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed are always good fun.
Annabelle Comes Home is a massive improvement on the past Conjuring movies and would be a perfect ending to the series. It probably will make money, so there are more to come. If that’s the case, can we have more character and less jump scares? It makes for a far more enjoyable experience.