Anyone will tell you that I’m a massive fan of the Conjuring Universe. What James Wan has created with this franchise is nothing short of impressive. Even if every film didn’t hit its mark, it was still exciting to see the franchise grow and to have a cinematic universe for horror similar to that of Marvel. One of my favorite characters within the Conjuring Universe has been that of Annabelle. Though the first film underwhelmed me, Annabelle: Creation blew me away, which gave me hope that the newest chapter, ANNABELLE COMES HOME, would do the same.
ANNABELLE COMES HOME is the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman (screenwriter of the Annabelle films, IT, and The Nun) and stars McKenna Grace (TV’s The Haunting of Hill House), Madison Iseman (Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween), Katie Sarife (TV’s Supernatural), Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring and Insidious films) and Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring films, Godzilla: King of the Monsters). Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren bring the possessed doll to the locked artifacts room in their home, placing her “safely” behind sacred glass and enlisting a priest’s holy blessing. But an unholy night of horror awaits as Annabelle awakens the evil spirits in the room, who all set their sights on a new target – the Warren’s ten-year-old daughter, Judy, and her friends. (Warner Bros/New Line Cinema)
I’ve been waiting all year for a movie that would leave me terrified and ANNABELLE COMES HOME has more than achieved that. The film mainly focuses on the Warren’s daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace) who is beginning to come into her own in terms of her psychic abilities. She’s also learning that not everyone is supportive of the work that her parents do, which has resulted in her getting ostracized at school. The film picks up right where Annabelle left off, with the Warren’s driving Annabelle back to their house, and though we learn they make it home safely, it’s not without its troubles. Upon having to go on another investigation, the Warren’s leave Judy with her babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) who has come to be a close family friend. However, as soon as word gets out that the Warren’s have a room filled with supposed demonic and supernatural artifacts, Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela decides to make a stop by the house in hopes of sneaking a peek into what the Warren’s actually do. However, we soon learn that Daniela has her own motives that center around communicating with her dad who recently passed away. However, in her search to speak with his spirit, she sets off a chain reaction that allows for Annabelle to escape her glass entombment releasing the evil spirits that have been safely housed within the artifact room.
One of the best parts of this film is the new addition of characters. Similar to what The Conjuring 2 did with the Crooked Man, ANNABELLE COMES HOME introduces viewers to The Ferryman, the Bride, and a slew of other monstrosities that are residing in the Warren’s artifact room. Though I would have loved to have seen all the demonic entities come to life, I’m glad that Dauberman only focused on a few so as to not overwhelm the audience with too many characters while still maintaining the focal point on Annabelle and the terror she brings on her own. And listen, I’m going to be honest, that doll scares the ever-loving shit out of me and I have no problem admitting it. She’s just showing up in places she shouldn’t be, acting all creepy, barely moving, and I’m supposed to be okay with that? No, thank you. As much as there is a multitude of jump scares, I found the more subtle moments of abject terror to be the most effective. One of my favorite scenes has to do with the Bride character appearing to Judy for the first time and how that character is integrated into the scene from outside the house into the inside. Another one features the Ferryman’s victims appearing as silent statues in different corners of the Warren’s house. Those moments left me incredibly unsettled and have me wondering if we could possibly see a Ferryman spin-off in the future…?
Having been a fan of Gary Dauberman’s work with IT and Annabelle: Creation, I was excited to see how he would fare behind the director’s chair. With this being his directorial debut I was a tad bit nervous but I came to find out rather quickly that I didn’t need to because he was able to confidently bring his story to life. He was able to raise the stakes in this film while also conveying a feeling of apprehension while creating genuine characters that were easy to have an emotional attachment too. Having written a slew of films in the franchise, Dauberman does have an awareness of how these films should be executed which I can only assume helped in the overall process of bringing this story to life. As for the actors, our three main leads: McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife give one hell of a performance. However, I was really taken by Katie Sarife’s performance because I saw a lot of myself in her especially in regards to how she handled her dad’s death and her desire to speak with him again. Though Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson aren’t in the majority of the film, this allowed the younger women a chance to really shine in their respective roles.
In all, ANNABELLE COMES HOME is easily my favorite scary movie of the year. So much so that at one point I asked my boyfriend to not go to work in the evening so he could stay home with me. Horror fans are going to have a blast with this film whether it be through the paranoia and tension that builds throughout the film or the feeling of being trapped inside their own home while stalked by evil spirits. By far, ANNABELLE COMES HOME is the best film out of the Annabelle franchise and easily the most terrifying. Even with the hot, humid days of summer rolling in, ANNABELLE COMES HOME will leave you chilled to the bone. Make sure to welcome Annabelle back into your life when ANNABELLE COMES HOME arrives in theaters Wednesday, June 26, 2019.