Annabelle Comes Home

One of the most intriguing yet often exaggerated lines in movie history is “based on actual events”. I’ve always had a fascination with supernatural thrillers that came with this tag line, whether it’s a movie like Amityville Horror or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. None of these are more popular than The Conjuring series, based on two real life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Whether you believe in ghosts and haunted houses or not, these films always played on the notion that the events “could” possibly happen…even if they were exaggerated for Hollywood audiences. Annabelle Comes Home breaks the trend of previous Conjuring movies by not bothering to pretend that it’s based on any of the “actual” events from the previous films. So how does it stack up to its predecessors?

The movie begins with Ed and Lorraine Warren retrieving Annabelle and taking the scary doll home to lock her away in the now infamous artifact room. The dolls presence is so evil, that it takes not only blessings by a priest but being locked away in a case made up of glass from an old church to keep it’s evil at bay. Not only is the display case locked, but a sign is placed upon it, warning any who may enter not to release the doll within. Several pad locks later the Warrens feel comfortable that the evil within is contained.

A year passes and both Ed and Lorraine are called away on business, entrusting the care of their young daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) to her responsible babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) blackmails Mary Ellen into allowing her to come over and stay with her and Judy in the Warren’s household. Using an opportunity when both Judy and Mary Ellen are out of the house, Daniela finds the artifact room (and the keys necessary to open it), and what at first appears to be idle curiosity, quickly turns into an attempt to utilize the artifacts in the room to reach out to her recently deceased father. It is in this attempt that Daniela unknowingly releases the evil in the room when she opens the case that Annabelle is in (it’s not like there was a BIG sign warning her not to do so).

Annabelle in her search for a soul, releases the full power and evil of all the artifacts in the room. Everything from an empty suit of Samurai armor to a wedding dress the drives the wearer insane is on display. Even a werewolf is released upon the world hunting an unwary suitor of Mary Ellen’s who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s up to this band of babysitters and children to restore order to the house and find a way to contain the evil that has been brought upon the world.

Annabelle Comes Home starts out fairly slow and takes awhile to build the tension. The first hour of the movie is mainly the interaction between the family and friends, and introductions to the various artifacts that are in the room. It’s not until the second half of the film when things really begin to take off. When the movie finally hits its creepy stride, it has plenty of genuine scares and intense moments, but focuses on several of the iconic artifacts and their affect on the individuals in the house.

While each of the artifacts has its own unique and interesting characteristics, we are hit with a barrage of items that are each going after one of the guests in the house. Whether it’s the television that can predict the future, or the locket that allows communication with the dead, it’s a lot to keep track of and tends to lose focus on the main plot. The movie attempts to cram every noticeable item from its previous films and give it some main purpose in the plot. In fact, the creepiest of all the artifacts Annabelle, takes on the role of evil puppet master controlling the artifacts which means less screen time and scares for her. Personally, Annabelle is scary enough to carry her own film (she has in previous installments), but in this film she is relegated to a side character, where the haunted artifacts take center stage.

The area I feel the movie loses the most is in the “believability” state. Remember that the Conjuring universe is based on real people, and on their actual encounters. Unfortunately, at no point in this film does one believe that any of these supernatural events could be mistaken for reality. It’s what I feel is the difference between a supernatural thriller and simply a monster movie. Much like other supernatural films, it’s about what you don’t see, rather than what you do, and Annabelle Comes Home unfortunately relies too much on its visuals leaving little to the viewers imagination. Imagining what a demon could look like is scarier than what Hollywood can dream up and show on the screen.

Ultimately Annabelle Comes home is a good movie which should have been great. It forgoes much of what made the series popular and replaces it with some goofy scenes and special effects. The artifacts are interesting, which makes the movie enjoyable, but not scary. I went in with hopes that I’d leave at least a little unnerved, looking under my covers, or turning the numerous dolls around that adorn my wife’s doll room. Unfortunately, I left feeling as though I’d simply been given a tour of the artifact room, with one night of scares that would disappear the next morning, as if from a bad dream. If you are looking to be scared, this movie likely won’t do that. If you are looking for an interesting movie with deeper background into the artifacts that have adorned the Warrens room for the past films, then this is the film for you.

3 out of 5 stars


Second review by Tracey Barrientos

In 1952 Ed (Patric Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren founded the New England Society for Psychic Research. After being contacted to research an alleged demonic doll they decided the best way to contain the evil was to take it home with them and lock it away. The real doll is actually a Raggedy Ann doll and like the film; is kept behind cathedral glass, locks and a sign that reads Positively Do Not Open. Would you be able to heed the warning or would curiosity get the better of you?

Some Time has passed since the Annabelle case and the Warren’s are called to investigate another case. Their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) is left in the care of Mary-Ellen (Madison Iseman) a trusted neighborhood babysitter. When Daniela (Katie Sarife) finds out that her best friend is going to babysit for the famed paranormal couple she begs her to let her join in. Daniela has her own plans and decides to do some snooping. Unbeknownst to her that she would unleash a powerful evil. The three girls must fight to survive the evils that were unleashed.

Films like Child’s Play, stories of true haunted dolls like Robert the doll and Annabelle herself have definitely made an impact on the horror genre for decades. What these films have that the older films do not is that the story itself is true, though the film was loosely based on the actual events. When the last film in The Conjuring series The Nun, was described as being the scariest of the series I almost gave up on the rest as that film really disappointed me. So I went into this film not with the highest of expectations and ended up walking out of the theater with the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up.

These films in this series are smartly filmed. Using great actors whom have great chemistry, simple jump scares, hardly any computer generation, great editing and with great stories to me are part of the great formula in bringing forth an awesome horror film. I also thought it was cool that a few of the cases that the Warren’s have covered made appearances or were vaguely shown throughout the film. As a big fan of their work I was able to pick up on that. If you’re a fan of the series than you will have to check out the film or if you might be in the mood for a good scare you certainly will find one here!