By Jason Guyer
The last week in June 2019 inexplicably becomes the battle of the dolls. Last weekend, the “Child’s Play” remake was released and on Wednesday, June 26 the third installment in the “Annabelle” series of “Conjuring” universe films was released. The film is aptly titled “Annabelle Comes Home.”
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, take the doll to their own house. The Warren’s lock the possessed doll in the artifacts room in their house. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as the Warrens.
However, before people get their hopes up, the Warrens are not a part of the main story in “Annabelle Comes Home.” “Annabelle Comes Home” centers on the Warren’s daughter and her babysitters. Judy Warren, the Warren’s daughter, is played wonderfully by Mckenna Grace. Grace plays Judy Warren as a passive loner who is reluctant to entertain the psychic gifts she shares with her mother. Slowly throughout “Annabelle Comes Home” Judy Warren starts to accept her gifts.
This reluctant hero dynamic is new to the Conjuring universe and brings one of the few new wrinkles that “Annabelle Comes Home” brings to the universe. The passive loner who is bullied at school for being the weird kid also brings some very necessary and added emotion to“Annabelle Comes Home.” This storyline ads a layer to “Annabelle Comes Home” but that layer is also underutilized. Judy Warren’s storybook ends the film and the center of the film loses touch with it and concentrates on the ghosts and haunting the three main characters.
“Annabelle Comes Home” harkens back to the old babysitter trope of horror films past. In “Annabelle Comes Home” one of the babysitters, or to be accurate the babysitter’s friend, is the one who releases Annabelle from her protective case in the Warren’s artifacts room.
Madison Iseman plays Mary Ellen, the babysitter. Iseman is good as the female lead and when her moment in the spotlight arrives during “Annabelle Comes Home.” The best scenes Iseman is in are the Ferryman haunting scenes. The scene with the coins, the Ferryman’s toll, that are in the eyes of the ghosts dropping and rolling is very well done by both Iseman and the director, Gary Dauberman.
Dauberman is a first time director with “Annabelle Comes Home.” He is not a stranger to horror or the Conjuring universe though, as he has writing credits on all three “Annabelle” films, “The Nun,” and both “It” and “It: Chapter Two.”
Dauberman gives all you can ask for from a first time director. He creates an atmosphere in “Annabelle Comes Home” that feels similar to the other “Annabelle” films and that is/should be apart of the conjuring universe, all while giving “Annabelle Comes Home” his own personal feel to it.
I like the top down camera work, especially in the beginning school scenes. The effect makes the characters smaller and seem grounded while adding depth to the scenes. Dauberman even switches to a bottom up camera approach when the characters start to get their footing and fight back against the haunting of the Warren home. This gives a stand up and fight back feel to many of the scenes towards the end of “Annabelle Comes Home.”
There is always one scene in every Conjuring universe film that I fall in love with. In the last “Annabelle” film, “Annabelle: Creation” it was the pop gun scenes. In “Annabelle Comes Home” that scene is actually two scenes. The aforementioned Ferryman coin scene and the other is the artifacts room television scene.
Katie Sarife stars as Daniela Rios, the friend of the babysitter and the one who unleashes the horror onto the Warren house. Sarife is the star of “Annabelle Comes Home” and steals the show. The scenes with her dad’s ghost are fantastic and the above alluded to artifacts room television scene is the best scene in “Annabelle Comes Home.” Sarife’s Rios adds tension, depth, story, and emotion to the entire “Annabelle Comes Home” film.
Scene after scene Sarife steals. From the very moment her character is introduced in the grocery store scene where she brings comedic relief and sets up the “Annabelle Comes Home” storyline, Sarife overshadows her scene partners. Sarife is the reason to see “Annabelle Comes Home” from an acting standpoint.
Under any other lens though, “Annabelle Comes Home” brings little to the table. At least if new is what your looking for when it comes to “Annabelle Comes Home.” Now, if you are just a fan of the Conjuring universe and are just itching for a new installment in it, “Annabelle Comes Home” is the film for you. “Annabelle Comes Home” brings the Annabelle story back to the Warrens, where it belongs.
The film does not take away from the Conjuring universe in any way. “Annabelle Comes Home” is a decent to good entry into the universe and continues the tradition the “Annabelle” films have set for the Conjuring Universe. The tradition is that the “Annabelle” films are the best of the spin-offs.
“Annabelle Comes Home” keeps this alive and is better than the last offerings from the Conjuring universe of “The Nun” and “The Curse of La Llorona.” “Annabelle Comes Home” is going to become a favorite of the Conjuring universe and hopefully will mean there are more films with the Warren family in the future.
The takeaway from “Annabelle Comes Home” should be that the Conjuring universe future is bright with the addition and hopefully future films starring Mckenna Grace as Judy Warren. It may seem too much since “Annabelle Comes Home” is the third “Annabelle” film in the franchise but “Annabelle Comes Home” leaves you wanting more.
This is more than can be said of the other doll film, “Child’s Play,” currently in theaters. In the war of the dolls, “Annabelle Comes Home” is the champion and Annabelle is still the creepiest doll around.
IRATE SCORE: 3.5/5
Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org