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Thursday, July 4, 2019

Review: Annabelle Comes Home

Director: Gary Dauberman
Screenplay: James Wan and Gary Dauberman
Year: 2019

Synopsis: In a common night, the daughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren spends the night with a babysitter and her friend while her parents are away. Without realizing it, the babysitter’s friend unleashes the power of Annabelle that had been trapped. The night turns from common to the most frightening night of their lives as they are haunted by the spirits that the Warrens had collected during the years in the pieces of their museum. 

One of the greatest contributions of James Wan to horror cinema has been the Conjuring universe. The success of “The Conjuring” gave the opportunity of continuing working this idea in the form of sequels and spin-offs from characters of them. As many followers of horror films, I am a fan of the Conjuring universe and I have enjoyed even the weakest entries as “Annabelle” and “The Nun”, although I agree with the flaws they have and maybe at some other time, I will go deeper in them as reviews of these movies. The most recent entry to this universe is the third entry in the “Annabelle” spin-off series, “Annabelle Comes Home”. 

James Wan movies always get my expectations high and I usually avoid watching trailers to go see the movie knowing as little as possible about it. Maybe this is why I got surprised to see that this story involved the Warrens, though their participation is limited to a few scarce minutes, just enough to get the story rolling. A good way to make use of the artifacts they have collected over the years without them being involved in the movie.

The plot of “Annabelle Comes Home” is simple. The story is centered in Judy, daughter of the Warrens, who is close to celebrating her birthday with the suspicion that she will spend it alone because of her parents’ reputation. Her babysitter Mary Ellen and her best friend Daniella spend a night with her, and Daniella fiends the way to get inside the Warren’s museum and free Annabelle. Once free, Annabelle decides to throw a party in her own style with some unwanted guests.

Different from other movies in the Conjuring universe, the events in “Annabelle Comes Home” takes place during a single night and since stuff starts happening, we know why they are happening. With this outlook, debutant director Gary Dauberman, who also co-wrote the script with Wan and has written the scripts for the two previous entries to the Annabelle series, “The Nun” and “It”, uses the best weapon he has to his reach to create tension, which is anticipation. Dauberman develops the plot slowly, but it never feels boring as he uses common elements in horror films and in other Conjuring universe movies to trick the viewer into thinking that a jump scare is coming and later doesn't use it. When the moment comes to scare it gets into an originality and cliché dynamic and in parts is effective and in other parts it isn’t. Among all I consider it to be a good directing work from Dauberman, capturing and using the 70’s style to create ambiance and conduct the story, as well as showing that he can make the most out of a simple script.

The problem with “Annabelle Comes Home” is that it is not a movie to expand the story of Annabelle or the Warrens and it feels like a way of using Annabelle’s status as a conduit for spirits, demons and other entities to pass into the human world, well brought by Lorraine for those that have not seen the Conjuring universe movies or didn’t remember it, and put into this movie several ideas that could be extracted from the Warren’s museum and create its own spin-off. This ends up for bringing many characters, but none of them gets developed, besides some background information to understand their conditions.

The poor character development is extended from the spiritual plane to the human, where only Daniella, interpreted by Katie Sarife (“Supernatural”) has a good development and ends up being fundamental for the events that unfold that night and helps justify her poor decisions. On the contrary, Judy and Mary Ellen, interpreted by Mckenna Grace (“The Haunting of Hill House”) and Madison Iseman (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) are superficially developed, even with the plenty of time they have on screen. What helps the viewer to be interested in them is the solid acting from all three girls, that manages to carry the plot through this fateful night.

“Annabelle Comes Home”, as well as Annabelle herself, comes, has a great time and leaves without leaving many consequences from her mischief. The movie contributes nothing to the Warren’s or Annabelle story, besides presenting a few characters that may become important in the future of the Conjuring universe, depending on how profitable the producers think they are to make a movie out of them. This is a good movie to have a good time and jump a few times on your seat, but its importance in the Conjuring universe is still left to be seen, but it seems it will not be much.

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