Annabelle Comes Home – Review
While babysitting the daughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a teenager and her friend unknowingly awaken an evil spirit trapped in a doll.
We are returning to the Conjuring universe today as we review the most recent addition to the Annabelle series – Gary Dauberman’s Annabelle Comes Home. Set around the same time as the ridiculously disappointing The Curse of La Llorona, Annabelle Comes Home is sure to be popular but is it worth the price of a cinema ticket? Let’s take a look.
It is worth pointing out, before we start, that reviewing a horror movie like Annabelle Comes Home is actually a slightly difficult task. Annabelle Comes Home is, at its heart, a carnival house of horrors style movie. Rapidly moving from one type of scare to the next and unafraid to bash you around the head with its blatant jumps and ridiculously stupid characters. To compare it to a slow burn folk horror like Midsommar (which I recently reviewed so click on the link) is actually pretty difficult.
How does a reviewer remain fair to both movies and avoid comparing them too closely? If I was to give a movie like Annabelle Comes Home a 7 out of 10 and a movie like Midsommar 7.2, people would likely think me a little deluded. With this in mind, I try to keep the scores relative to the type of movie that we are looking at. I am not comparing Midsommar and Annabelle Comes Home with each other, I am comparing the former against other slow burn horror movies and the latter against other quick hitting jump scare horror movies. With that said, we can move on to the review.
Fun With Annabelle
The Conjuring universe has produced a substantial number of horror movies; most of them, let’s be honest, aren’t particularly great. With the exception of the flagship Conjuring and Conjuring 2 movies, the spin offs have had a somewhat lukewarm reception. Annabelle Creation, for me, stands out as the best of the bunch with The Nun being a good few leaps behind and The Curse of La Llorona being the worst.
There is obvious money making potential in the Conjuring name, however, and as long as that is true we will be seeing a lot more of Annabelle and friends so buckle up.
This latest visit with Annabelle takes place right after the events of the first Annabelle movie. We do have a little time skip somewhere after the first 10 minutes of the movie, however, and we end up about two years shy of the main plot of the first Conjuring movie. There’s a lot of meat on this bone, as you can tell, so stories running alongside other stories are a growing theme.
The Warrens have retrieved the Annabelle doll from a pair of nurses who claim to have been tormented by her. On the way home, Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) jumps out of the car for a few minutes to take a look at the engine after a breakdown. Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), who chooses to wait in the car, begins seeing and hearing spirits. At this point it becomes clear to her that Annabelle is evil after the doll attempts to kill Ed by manipulating spirits and objects. The Warrens take the doll back to their house, have her blessed, and seal her inside of a locked glass cabinet because apparently glass that wouldn’t even be burglar proof is the perfect protection against ultimate evil.
We jump forward a year or so and pick things up back at the Warren’s home where we eventually learn that Judy Warren has similar powers to her mother. She is seeing dead people, ala Sixth Sense and having trouble at school due to the nature of her parent’s work. Judy’s babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) decides to cheer Judy up by throwing a birthday party for her. Mary Ellen’s friend, Daniela Rios (Katie Sarife), has heard of the work the Warrens do and, being somewhat curios, invites herself over to the party. Chaos ensues and many jump scares were had by all. On with the review.
A Movie Version of a Haunted House
I think that is the best way to describe the Annabelle movies and Annabelle Comes Home is no different. These movies are like a trip through a haunted house at a carnival or fairground. Things jump out at you at every turn, there is fog covering every step, and you never quite know what is coming next. It’s not a particularly fulfilling experience but it is a fun one and you will come out giggling and quite happy that you wasted your money.
This goes back to my thoughts on reviewing these types of horror movies; it is difficult because these types of horror movies are so shallow and simple. You really aren’t getting much aside from what is offered on the surface. They are not complex, they are just fun thrill rides that don’t require much explanation and don’t demand much in the way of thought. If you enjoy them, you know what you are in for and you won’t go into it expecting some contrived plot or fascinating story.
With Annabelle Comes Home, you are best off assuming that there will be minimal plot, lots of scares, and not much else. Character development is at a minimum and there isn’t a lot of intelligence to spread around. Characters react in stupid ways, there is a frightening amount of foreshadowing, and you will likely roll your eyes at the number of false scares. When Annabelle Comes Home gets it right, however, it’s lots of fun and a real giggle. On the other hand, when it doesn’t, it is just a very average jump scare horror.
Lots of Jump Scares but not that Scary
You know what you are getting into with Annabelle movies and Annabelle Comes Home is no different from the others. Lots and lots of jumps scares. To be honest, I didn’t find many of them to be particularly well executed and the cinema screen remained pretty quiet other than a few specific scenes. There wasn’t a whole lot of jumping from fellow members of the audience and it certainly wasn’t on the level of Annabelle Creation.
Obviously there is a sense of foreboding that comes along with the minxy little doll but a great deal of foreshadowing and the use of false scares really cuts through the tension. There were a few moments where I was expecting something to happen only for it to not happen and for the film to never actually capitalise on the sense of anticipation. Annabelle Comes Home is just not that scary and perhaps that is its biggest failing.
Pretty Well Produced
Annabelle Comes Home is a pretty well put together film. Camera work was fairly well done. Lots of tight shots attempting to conceal potential scares as well as some interesting set design added to the atmosphere of the location. The Warren’s artifact room is very nicely designed. It is both claustrophobic and imposing which sets up a few decent scares. There were some fantastic shots involving a certain TV later on in the movie but I don’t want to spoil anything.
Lighting was great in parts and added to the ambiance quite nicely. I love the shot outside the car at the start of the film. Nothing is too dark; I was never straining my eyes to see anything which can really be a problem in horror movies. I am guessing much of the film was made using practical effects which I love. There is one noteworthy use of CGI that doesn’t look fantastic but the rest of the film is fine. All in all, a solid effort and pretty much what you would expect from a Conjuring spin off.
A Cookie Cutter Cast
You really aren’t going to find anything, or anyone, that really stands out here but that’s not a bad thing. Obviously if you are a fan of the Conjuring Movies it is nice to see Ed and Lorraine Warren in a movie that doesn’t wear the Conjuring name tag. Judy Warren (Mckenna Grace) has her character developed a little more and I expect some future movies to focus on her and her apparent abilities.
Mary Ellen and Daniela Rios, Judy’s babysitter and her friend, are both very likable and it made a change to actually root for a pair of supposed teenagers in a horror movie. I can imagine some people taking exception to that statement, though, and disliking Daniela somewhat. Even Mary Ellen’s love interest Bob (Michael Climino) came across as a warm character with plenty to like.
Acting, from the main cast, was pretty adequate throughout. I can’t find anything to complain about. The roles were pretty simple and straightforward and the actors did their best with the material they had. The cast members seemed to genuinely like each other and nothing came across as particularly awkward with the exception of maybe a scene or two.
Expanding the Conjuring Universe
I really think Annabelle Comes Home will be used as a vehicle to set up a whole new series of Conjuring based movies. We were introduced to a whole new set of characters here and I can imagine them all having their own movies sooner or later. Remember how The Nun was setup? We have at least a few of these types of characters waiting in the wings ready to get the big screen treatment. Remember, The Warrens either genuinely encountered a lot or had some active imaginations and created a whole range of demons that supposedly haunted people so expect a lot more from this series. Putting to one side your opinions of the Warrens as people, there is a lot of material to work with here.
I am not actually opposed to this idea. I love horror movies and will watch pretty much anything so I am quite open to the idea. Some of the demons introduced in Annabelle Comes Home are quite interesting and I wouldn’t mind seeing more.
I spent my time watching Annabelle Comes Home rolling my eyes. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t tense, and I wasn’t blown over by the story. Afterwards, however, I realised I actually kind of enjoyed it and my partner was exactly the same. It is easily digestible and, to be honest, it’s quite cheerful for a horror movie. The comedy is a pretty big factor at times but it is very hit or miss. Some of the intended laughs might leave you cringing a bit, to be honest.
I am confused by the movie’s age rating. I really think Annabelle Comes Home could have been a 12 or a PG13. The movie isn’t graphic, bad language is at a minimum, and the story isn’t particularly dark. This is a classic teen horror movie that you can watch with your friends at a sleepover and have a good time.
This is why I feel so mixed about it. Would I recommend Annabelle Comes Home to horror veterans? No, it’s just not that good of a horror movie. Would I recommend it to people looking for a fun horror movie that you can watch with your friends or on a Netflix night with your girlfriend or boyfriend? Damn straight, you will probably enjoy it and you will likely laugh a fair bit. There is a place for this type of horror and they can be enjoyable, even when they are rather silly like this one.
Is it a Knockout?
Annabelle Comes Home is, objectively, a pretty average horror. It doesn't do anything particularly well, it isn't very scary, there is far too much foreshadowing, and there is virtually no story. It is, however, an enjoyable and pretty fun horror movie. Acting is fine, camera work is fine, set design is really nice, practical effects are great, and the cast is likable. Watch it with your friends expecting a fun horror with a few jump scares and an iconic antagonist and you will have a fun time. Watch it on your own expecting a decent horror with a well developed plot and slow build scares and you will be sorely disappointed.