Sunday, 14 July 2019

Review: Annabelle Comes Home

Annabelle Comes Home
Cert: 15 / 106 mins / Dir. Gary Dauberman / Trailer

A quick and graceless link-drop to save me working them into the review:
The Conjuring | Annabelle | The Conjuring 2 | Annabelle: Creation | The Nun | The Curse Of La Llorona

"Why do you do it to yourself, Ian?" they ask. A valid question. The closest I can come to an answer is that I've watched all of The Conjuring-universe movies at the cinema so far, they'll be far better in that environment than on a TV and while the overall quality is reminiscent of a rollercoaster, I think I just want to see how bad the series can get before someone pulls the plug.


Annabelle Comes Home is the third in its particular subset of the Conjuring flicks, taking place after the previous two prequel-type movies and once the killer doll is safely ensconced in The Warren's occult artefact museum. With Ed and Lorraine (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) out of the house for the night*1, they arrange for babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) to look after their young daughter Judy (McKenna Grace).

But Mary Ellen's best friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) knows of the Warrens' reputation as ghost-hunters, and has reasons for seeing the inside of their infamous vault herself. To add to this, Mary Ellen's prospective sweetheart Bob (Michael Cimino) seems to have picked the wrong night to come a-courting. Before you can say 'Murphy's Law', the doll is free from its holy glass case*2 and all hell is breaking loose. Literally. Will young Judy demonstrate she's a product of her lineage, or is this the end of the line?


Short version: Yeah, it's not very good. Longer version: but does it need to be? The Conjuring movies are to the horror landscape what Will Ferrell and Melissa McCarthy are to comedy. An undemanding and often underwhelming baseline by which we can judge everything else, for better or worse (and there is worse). That doesn't necessarily make them bad, although they frequently appear that way upon closer inspection.

And Annablle Comes Home just isn't good. Not as laughably awful as the first Annabelle, but not as committed to its narrative as Creation. Instead, this is a parade of mechanically constructed feints and jump-scares which could have been assembled by a computer. McKenna Grace does quite well given the ludicrous nature of the screenplay, but let's not forget that she was the lead in Gifted, and is far better than this.


James Wan gets a story-credit as the snake eating its own tail, with his input meaning the film is one beat short of going full Insidious (although make no mistake, director and screenwriter Gary Dauberman shoulders most of the blame here). Once Annabelle is out of the box and acting as a spiritual lodestone, that's a license for the movie to start flinging shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. Bob ends up hiding from a demonic wolf in the chicken house (one of the last places, surely?), Daniela is locked in the museum-room with My Decomposing Dad™ and Mary Ellen ends up padding around the house above avoiding spirits who have dodged The Ferryman. The film basically turns into Poltergeist, leaving Judy and Annabelle literally snoozing through the second act of their own story.

The initial setup is by-the-numbers, even for a series as grounded in classical folklore*3 as this one. The sequence with the doll in the bedroom is well executed, but it's over far too quickly and is in the trailer anyway, so you're already waiting for it. Then the dialogue for the third act consists mostly of screaming. Whether it's our three leads in the house, Sackless Bob out in the shed, or the laundry-list of unhappy spectres appearing like the products of a cursed conveyor belt from the end of The Generation Game. The story seems to have abandoned the twelve-year cycle of events alluded to in previous installments.


To add insult to injury, the film has the absolute balls to start lecturing the audience in its final moments. Returning for the coda, Lorraine tells Daniela "When I think of all the evil in here, it reminds me of all the good out there…". I nodded in silent agreement, reminded of the other four movies I could have been watching in that same cinema.

2019 has shown us that the most imaginative horror doesn't have to be moored in the supernatural, despite being deliberately outlandish. So you really have to wonder why we're still doing this. Then again, if Valerian can exist in the same release schedule as Blade Runner 2049, I suppose you have to cater for everybody.


On the plus-side, Annabelle Comes Home cruises the fuck past the Bechdel Test. That's it. Anyway, here's the summary which could have saved all of these words:

It's that simple.

Is Annabelle Comes Home just a dip in the cinematic rollercoaster of The Conjuring? Or does this apparently low plateau signify that we're finally approaching the boarding platform and the ride is over?

I imagine that will depend, as most things do these days, not on the quality of the mechanics themselves, but rather how many people are interested in paying for the ride. We await with bated breath…

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The other Conjuring movies. At best.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Not when Midsommar is playing at the same time.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Stream it, then work out if it deserves space on your shelf (it doesn't).

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Fuck no.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Fuck yes.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: McKenna Grace is in this, and she's the young Captain Marvel, in a film with Sam 'Windu' Jackson and Ben 'Krennic' Mendelsohn

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
That's not because the film is bad on a technical level (even though it's far from great), but just because it's not even trying.

*1 Ed and Lorraine had the right idea when they fucked off after the first ten minutes. Probably the most sensible thing they've done in seven movies, to be fair. [ BACK ]

*2 You'd think that with the thoroughly abandoned priest sub-plot, they could finally do a crossover with Father Ted? [ BACK ]

*3 Why doesn't Lorraine just walk back onscreen and say to the camera "By the way, we really want to make a Black Shuck movie, so please create some buzz around these scenes okay thanks bye."? [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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