Starring Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga,
Written by Gary Dauberman
Directed by Gary Dauberman
Annabelle Comes Home ventures into a new direction for The Conjuring universe where it isn’t ashamed to have a ton of fun with itself, while still providing spooks and scares. Watching the film, I was reminded of that weathered monster truck joke, “Ticket prices cover the whole seat but you’ll only need the edge!” In this case, that is very applicable and it’s nothing to laugh at. Rather, this is a movie you’ll laugh with because it’s such a blast.
Writer/director Gary Dauberman, who makes his directorial debut, clearly learned a great deal by being a part of this horror cinematic universe for the past several years, not to mention IT. He pays homage to the first Conjuring with the title sequence. He recreates the Warrens’ home perfectly. He gives a nod to the original Annabelle doll in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sequence. He imbues the film with darkness both in tone and visual aesthetic. He has created the kind of horror movie that fans delight in watching because he clearly is a fan.
The film opens with the Warrens bringing Annabelle back to their home and encountering some strong, almost deadly, resistance along the way. The whole sequence is aimed at making the audience realize that Annabelle is far more powerful than we’ve ever seen…and that she has a wicked sense of humor, something that runs throughout the film’s events.
Once the doll is placed in its iconic glass case, the film really begins rolling as Judy (Mckenna Grace) and babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) hunker down for a day and night of leisurely activities. When Daniela (Katie Sarife) joins them, things quickly go astray as she makes some unfathomably stupid decisions – albeit ones that come from a very human place – that put all of their lives in danger. With Pandora’s Box unleashed, the Warrens home becomes the ultimate haunted house and its gags are absolutely delightful.
Annabelle Comes Home may be infused with a healthy dose of humor but the laughs never come at the expense of the scares. Dauberman isn’t afraid to let tensions ramp up to nigh-unbearable levels. Visual gags that play with audience expectations lurk around every corner while fantastic sound design and yet another stellar Joseph Bishara score amplify every scene.
Using grief, loss, bullying, and isolation as its core themes, Annabelle Comes Home uses human emotions against supernatural terror, making the characters far more relatable that one would expect. They feel more fleshed out than your usual cookie-cutter body count fare and that creates a movie that makes you genuinely care. Something these films are, overall, pretty good at doing.
All of this is not to say that this film is perfect, which it most certainly is not. There’s some glaringly obvious CGI on a few occasions and the ending is, as is typical for films in this cinematic universe, unnecessarily bombastic. And while having a horror movie use a lot of darkness, there comes a point where it’s too much.
These concerns are minor in the grand scheme of things and there’s no denying that Annabelle Come Home is easily one of the best Conjuring movies. Sit back, make sure you have some popcorn, and get ready for one of the most entertaining horror movies this year has to offer.
Easily the best of the Annabelle films, Annabelle Comes Home is the kind of exciting horror movie that you’ll want to see in a packed theater or with a group of friends. It’s funny, scary, exhilarating, and a pure joy to watch.