Annabelle Comes Home
One year after the Warren’s acquire their infamous demon doll known as Annabelle, they have to go on an overnight trip for work. They leave their 10-year-old daughter Judy in the care of reliable teenage babysitter Mary Ellen. But Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela has developed a bit of an obsession with the Warren’s as of late, and she ends up tagging along with her friend and sneaking into their little personal museum of possessed artifacts that they keep in their house. Before she sneaks back out, she gets a little freaked out and forgets to lock ol’ Annabelle back in her clearly labeled “DO NOT OPEN” box, and goes back upstairs to join the others, thinking nothing of it. Annabelle, meanwhile, takes this opportunity to wake up a veritable mini-army of possessed artifacts in the museum downstairs, subjecting the kids to around a half-a-dozen evils that they’re now forced to fend off if they want to have any hope of surviving the night.
Okay, so after watching The Nun, I got to wondering how the other spinoffs of the Conjuring series compared to the main titles. The Conjuring films were actually pretty good, with the second one being even better than the first (the 3rd is just “okay”). But I thought The Nun was a dud (pretty, but a dud), The Curse of La Llorona has crap reviews and is only tangentially related to the rest of the series at best, so I’m not even sure I want to subject myself to it, and I wasn’t all that impressed with the first Annabelle film when I saw it a few years ago either. So considering the 0-3 batting average of the other offshoots, I really didn’t have any high hopes for this particular outing either. But color me shocked when I finished this one and actually realized that I’d enjoyed it. I still don’t think it holds a candle to the main films in the series, but I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained by it either.
Let me start off by saying that this is NOT a scary film. It may be rated R, and I’ll admit it has its fair share of creepy and spooky moments, and maybe I’m just horribly desensitized at this point in my life (yes, probably, most definitely so…), but I think the film really only tops out at being mildly ‘tense’ at best. The main cast is comprised of kids and teens, one of them being the Warren’s own daughter, in a time-frame set sometime not too long before the first Conjuring film. So you already know that nobody is going to be in any real danger, because then the series would have to backpedal and find some way to explain away how no one brought up the glaring issue of a kid literally dying in their house.
I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’D consider that a problem.
That said, even without any solid scares, the film still manages to be surprisingly fun. Part of the reason for that is that the movie doesn’t focus on just evil doll Annabelle. The doll would have probably been bad enough on her own, yes, but this film bucks the trend of the other two films in this spin-off series, and instead the kids now also have their own personal mini-menagerie of ghosts, demons and cursed objects to contend with. Thanks to Daniela’s natural teenage compulsion to touch every cool thing she sees (I feel ya, kid), other than Annabelle you’ve also got about eight other unique monsters and evil things lurking around the house as well, including a Fog Werewolf, a possessed bridal gown, a creepy game, a cursed phone, a TV that sees a few seconds into the future, an angry set of armor, and The Ferryman, who pops up at inopportune times to try to cart the kids souls off into the afterlife. So the movie is constantly throwing new evils at you, that you are completely unfamiliar with, to keep both the characters, and you, on your toes. Granted, the number isn’t actually that big, because a couple of those things like the TV and phone can be easily avoided, and the wolf creature mainly hangs out outside to torment a hapless teen Bob, who was only at the house to begin with because he was trying to serenade his potential lady-love with a lame song (I guess Fog Fido isn’t a music lover). So kudos to the filmmakers for giving the audience plenty to look at, but also knowing enough to break it all into smaller doses so that it never feels like you’re being overwhelmed by too much information. Of course, even if you’re down by three, that’s still way more demon than anyone want’s to deal with on any given day, especially when you’re just there to watch a 10-year-old and trying to pick up an easy paycheck.
How does one politely request hazard pay for a babysitting gig?
Like the rest of the films of the series, the acting here is pretty top-notch. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return to reprise their roles at the beginning and end, but only for a brief period of time to bookend the story. The rest of the film is set firmly in the hands of the “kids”, including Mckenna Grace as Judy Warren, Madison Iseman as Mary Ellen, and Katie Sarife as Daniela, with a little Michael Cimeno as Bob thrown in for good measure. I say ‘kids’, of course, because with the exception of Grace who was 13 at the time, all the other actors were between the ages of 19-26 at the time of filming. Regardless though, they all did a pretty stellar job, even Cimeno, whose character was really only designed to be there for brief moments of comic relief. Cimeno did a good job with what he was given…you know, when Bob wasn’t busy spending most of his time hiding in the family’s chicken coop. He did grace us with a couple of moments of bravery though, so that was nice.
Good job, Bob.
On the other hand, dude knew he was up against a werewolf, and he decided to hide with the chickens? I’ll admit I like Bob, but he ain’t too bright.
But if there’s one thing this series does exceptionally well, it’s the visuals. In every one of the film’s in this series, even if the story ends up being a total wash, it still ends up looking excellent. They must have a visual bible somewhere that they follow to the letter, because all of these film’s are remarkably consistent. Everything from the colors to the scene composition were clearly thought out, and even though much of the film is darker than some of the others, what with it primarily being set at night and all, you never have any trouble clearly seeing what’s going on. Even all the monsters end up looking good. Though I think that may be in part because they primarily used practical effects in constructing them. Either way I’m not going to complain.
Overall, I was surprisingly pleased with this movie. It’s paced well, the acting is good, the story is engaging enough and it looks great. Is it a scary film? No, not really. But a horror movie doesn’t always have to be scary to be fun. Sometimes some light entertainment and likable characters are more than enough. And really, my greatest complaint about the film is that I kinda actually wish that it had been given a lower rating. Because the story, dialogue and characters make it feel like it would be the perfect introductory film for a slightly younger audience. But maybe that’s just me. Other than that, I’ll admit that with all the different ghosties, the movie does kinda feel like the filmmakers were hoping to use all the different ghosts to set-up some story-lines for some future spin-offs. I mean, The Crooked Man is apparently getting a planned film at some point, and he was only a bit player in the second Conjuring film, and most of the ghosts in this film not only walk away with twice as much screen time as the nursery rhyme villain, but also come away with some pre-established backstories to boot, so I wouldn’t put the idea past them. But you know what? I don’t really care. Even if nothing comes of it, you still get enough out of this movie so that it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get any more. This just feels like a fun, quick little side story, and that’s good enough for me. The only real downside to it is that you do really need to be at least partially familiar with a couple of the previous films in order for parts of it to make sense. But odds are you wouldn’t be interested in watching it if you weren’t, and even if you’re not, the story is still easy enough to follow along with regardless. So if you like the other Conjuring films, or just want to watch a quick, atmospheric ghost tale that ‘s not going to keep you up at night, then Annabelle Comes Home is something to consider.
Annabelle Comes Home is available on a variety of streaming services.
Annabelle Comes Home is also available on DVD and Bluray.