Directed by: Gary Dauberman
Screenplay by: Gary Dauberman
Story by: Gary Dauberman and James Wan
Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga
There’s an inherent curiosity in horror films that has drawn me toward them as an adult; perhaps it’s the carnage, or maybe the mayhem that ensues. Perhaps I’m just demented with a macabre sense of humor - the horror films that I avoided as a kid are more than a passing interest for me. I’m drawn into them more for the technical aspects of the filmmaking.
First time director Gary Dauberman has extensive background on this film’s antagonist and horror in general having written “Annabelle,” “Annabelle Creation,” “It” and “The Nun”. Yet, when I reflect on “Annabelle Comes Home,” I am left with an empty feeling.
No, the empty feeling is not the glass case used to house Annabelle. My feeling has more to do with the fact that Dauberman’s narrative structure, who co-wrote the story with series’ producer James Wan, felt exceptionally limp.
Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) are an integral part of the story, as they bring Annabelle to rest. Knowing that simply locking Annabelle in a box is insufficient, the Warrens have a priest’s holy blessing to keep Annabelle’s evil at bay.
The Warrens focus on their family while continuing their demonology exploits. Their grown-up daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace) has become the subject of ridicule at school because of her parents, but a protective neighbor, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) defends her, while Daniela (Katie Sarife) marvels after the idea of what the Warren’s do for a living.
The Warrens leave Judy in Mary Ellen’s care for an overnight and that’s when the fun begins. I say fun because Annabelle Comes Home has an exceptionally strong fun-house atmosphere. Sure, some of the jump scares are probably a little tried and true, but once Annabelle is on the loose, the women’s worlds are turned upside down and inside out. I found myself surprised a number of times too.
And, I don’t like surprises.
Mckenna Grace’s performance is the highlight of the film. She had an innocence about her that amped up the tension while at the same time, the character’s innocence was reserved because she knew what her parents did for a living, despite many attempts to shield her from their work. Madison Iseman did an effective job at playing coy and then getting creeped out by the whole experience.
My biggest disappointment and the reason why I think the film doesn’t work as well as it could is with Daniela. Katie Sarife’s performance was strong, but the character’s motivations weren’t believable and this is a fundamental issue with the story.
I suppose for the time the film is set in and her own situation, the context makes sense, but the bond between the three girls doesn’t gel.
“Annabelle Comes Home” works on a technical level, but the story leaves a lot to be desired. Still, this film has me curious about the rest of the “Conjuring” universe that Warners has embarked on and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
2 out of 4 stars