Title: ‘Annabelle Comes Home’
Director: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace (‘Captain Marvel,’ ‘The Haunting of Hill House’), Madison Iseman (‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’) and Katie Sarife (‘Girl Meets World’)
Containing menacing emotions and spirits, in an attempt to keep ominous intentions at bay, can ultimately lead to more dire circumstances. That’s certainly true for both the human characters, as well as the title demon that’s possessing a doll, in the new horror movie, ‘Annabelle Comes Home.’ The new drama follows up on the gripping tale that was first fully presented in its two predecessors, 2014’s ‘Annabelle’ and 2017’s ‘Annabelle: Creation,’ and further proves that evil can’t always be controlled or held back, once a being is determined to unleash their plans.
Gary Dauberman wrote, and made his feature film directorial debut on, ‘Annabelle Comes Home,’ which is the seventh entry in ‘The Conjuring’ Universe. The second ‘Annabelle’ sequel is opening in theaters and IMAX today by Warner Bros. Pictures.
‘Annabelle Comes Home‘ begins in 1968, as Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they evaluate the strange circumstances surrounding the title doll. Two frightened young nurses currently own Annabelle, and willingly relinquish it to the Warrens after the married couple determines that a demon has taken over the haunted toy, who wishes to possess a human soul.
The paranormal investigators then cautiously transport the doll back to their Connecticut home, and decide to store it in their artifacts room, where they keep many of the spiritually tainted objects that they have retrieved from their past cases. After they have a priest bless the toy, the Warrens place Annabelle on a chair inside a locked glass cabinet that they retrieved from a church. The religious rite appears to keep Annabelle’s hauntings at bay for about a year, before she’s unintentionally provoked.
The mayhem begins again when the Warrens’ pre-teen daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), celebrates her birthday early with her high-school-aged babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), while her parents travel out of town on a case. While Mary Ellen tries to reassure Judy that her peers have begun ridiculing her about her parents’ profession because they don’t understand her family’s gifts, one of the babysitter’s friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife), unexpectedly arrive at the Warrens’ house.
Daniela proclaims that she wants to help Judy celebrate her birthday, but she actually wants to spiritual reconnect with her recently deceased father, and is convinced that the Warrens’ paranormal expertise can provide her guidance in doing so. She sneaks into the locked artifacts room in her quest, and inadvertently releases Annabelle’s spirit along the way. In her journey to wreck havoc on the living, Annabelle evokes the spirits of the other threatening entities and objects in the artifacts room, and as a result, Judy and the two teens must fight for their lives.
Dauberman was an ideal choice to direct ‘Annabelle Comes Home,’ as he also wrote the script for the previous two installments in the ‘Annabelle’ series, as well as last fall’s entry in ‘The Conjuring’ Universe, ‘The Nun.’ The filmmaker also produced the latter movie, as well as this spring’s chapter in the franchise, ‘The Curse of La Llorona.’ The scribe intriguingly maintained the sinister tone surrounding the title doll that he infused into ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Annabelle: Creation’ in ‘Annabelle Comes Home,’ and showed that the menacing demonic antagonist would take any measures necessary to shift from the toy to a living soul.
However, the second mystery sequel also notably stands out from its predecessors by featuring its own standalone story that doesn’t struggle to directly tie back to plot elements that were introduced in its predecessors, much like ‘The Nun’ did with ‘The Conjuring,’ and ‘Annabelle: Creation‘ did with ‘Annabelle.’ Dauberman created fully developed characters in Judy, Mary Ellen and Daniela, who are all truly affected by the spirit of the title doll in the present moment, and do whatever it takes to fight back against their intimidator during their harrowing night in the Warrens’ home.
Lorraine and Ed served as meaningful and important supporting characters who inadvertently instigated their daughter and her babysitters’ troubling night by bringing Annabelle into their home, on the pretext of protecting society from her evil intentions. While their plan to safely lock the doll away in their artifacts room ultimately caused havoc for Judy and her babysitters through the third ‘Annabelle’ film, the strong performances from Grace, Iseman and Sarife ultimately proved that the passing of the lead roles from Farmiga and Wilson from the two ‘Conjuring’ movies to the young actresses was a chillingly smart decision.
‘Annabelle Comes Home’ also enthrallingly proves that it has a unique vision through its effective sense of humor that helped lighten the more terrifying emotional moments that Judy, Mary Ellen and Daniela contend with throughout its story. Dauberman smartly chose to scale back on the excessive jump scares that plagued ‘The Nun,’ and instead relieved the emotional tension that drove the young girls’ actions through entertaining comic relief.
While the overall ‘Conjuring’ Universe thrives on the fantastical and mystical emotional and physical scares that arise from a demonic possession from the Warrens’ case files that plague other families, ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ is a thrilling and fresh take on the horror thriller franchise. The drama, which effectively works as its own standalone film that doesn’t require viewers to have an extensive, in-depth knowledge of the previous entries in the series, uniquely and powerfully showcases how the Warrens’ artifacts are affecting their own family. Instead of further delving into the couple’s investigation of the Amityville murders, following the brief glimpse into the case that appeared in ‘The Conjuring 2,’ Dauberman instead smartly created a new, unprecedented movie that truly deserves to be the next haunted house story that’s thoroughly explored.