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Annabelle Comes Home is the latest entry into the Conjuring universe. This is the third film of the Annabelle storyline and is Gary Dauberman's (IT, Annabelle Creation, The Nun) directorial debut, who has written the scripts for prior Conjuring universe films. The story for the film is credited as being thought of by James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Aquaman), who started the Conjuring universe and has directed the two main line entries. The film stars Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Judge, Source Code), Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Aquaman, Insidious), McKenna Grace (Gifted, I, Tonya, Captain Marvel), Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, Riot Girls), Katie Sarife (Twisted Sisters, Cleveland Abduction, Zombies and Cheerleaders), and Michael Cimino (Kill the King, Dog Days (short), No Child Left Behind). The film was produced by Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema for a budget of around the $30 million mark. The runtime is 100 minutes.
The story takes place after the events of the first Annabelle film and before the events of the first Conjuring film. It starts with the Warren's collecting the doll from their previous owner and taking it back home and storing it in the room where all of their cursed materials are. The focus of the film shifts from Ed and Lorraine to their daughter Judy, her babysitter Mary Ellen, Daniela Rios (Mary Ellen's best friend), and Bob Palmeri (the best part about this film). A majority of the film takes place inside the house of the Warren's in three or four rooms, and from a financial perspective this is very cost efficient, and from a filmmaking perspective very challenging. (Telling a feature story set in a single location allows the filmmakers to get creative so as not to make the film stale for the audience.)
The film is incredibly predictable and at this point in the Conjuring universe films it is quite clear that the filmmakers are trying to replicate the style of James Wan with little to no success, the only success being Annabelle Creation. The formula is evident for anyone to see, set up a jump scare, fake out, release the tension, and then do the jump scare. In this film there were occasions when there are multiple fake outs in the hope of getting the audience with at least one of these moments and the entire time I was either bored or laughing. The structure of this film is odd to say the least. The first act seems to drag on for what seems to be an eternity, I would even argue that the first act takes up nearly sixty minutes of the hundred minute run time, and this section, I found, was really hard to get through, where I was so bored I was nearly drifting off. The second act is much shorter than the first act and the third act is shorter still which left me and my friend who watched it with me with the feeling that we were constantly waiting for the film to start till we realized it was over.
The characters serve the function that they were made for, being the catalyst by which we experience the scares of the film. However, I must say that while supernatural shenanigans are occurring on screen, the best part of the film is Bob, who is the butt of the jokes, yet manages to get more emotion out of me that the thrills promised by horror, by means of hilarity. The performances by the actors are noteworthy, especially McKenna Grace, who did manage to carry this shambolic film on her young shoulders and made is somewhat watchable, as did Madison Iseman. The film tried to have an emotional story regarding Daniela, however I found the character to be so obnoxious that I would have been far more satisfied had the character suffered a lot more to make up for the sheer stupidity I was watching on screen as a result of her actions. While there was a lot of marketing around Ed and Lorraine being in the film, it felt as if they were the foreword and afterword in a book as they had little to no influence on the narrative and would not have been missed if they were not in the film at all.
Visually the film is well presented, and you can see what is happening on screen, even when there is darkness all around, and so the film gets some props for letting the audience see what's happening for the most part. Though when there are moments when the camera is shaking and cutting often, and combining that with the dark environments and the tight spaces, it was hard to keep track of what was happening. These are only a couple of moments in the entire film so it is not a massive negative. The soundtrack is forgettable at best and the jump scares are often telegraphed by the bass rumble that is prevalent in almost all of the Conjuring films.
Something to Look Forward to
There was a few segments in the film that made it quite obvious that they were setting up a new spirit to do another spin off from, and I would be shocked if we do not get an announcement from Warner Brothers saying that a Bride film is in the works as this spirit felt tacked on with no real bearing on the film at all. While The Conjuring 2 had The Nun, the character was weaved into the narrative seamlessly, whereas here it is blatant set up.
Annabelle Comes Home goes back and forth between boring and funny with nothing in between. This is a film I do not recommend, and if you do want to see it, watch it when it comes on Netflix or and equivalent so that you have the ability to fast forward.