REVIEW: ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ is Jump Scares and Worldbuilding

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The Conjuring series has quickly become not only a staple within the horror film genre but in popular culture as well. It’s given us some memorable and scary moments that pushed horror films even further into mainstream audiences. With other films currently filming and in productions, there’s no doubt that the series will stop any time soon. The next chapter within the universe hits theaters this week with one goal in mind: to scare audiences and deliver a perfect end to the Annabelle trilogy.

Annabelle Comes Home, from Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema, is directed by Gary Dauberman and follows Mary (Madison Iseman), a local babysitter who is watching over Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren’s daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace). The Warrens are called away on an investigation, which leaves Mary in charge of Judy. As Mary’s preparing to celebrate Judy’s birthday early, her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) is eager to see if the Warrens’ home is truly haunted by spirits. As her friend visits, she sneaks into the Warrens’ secret room while Mary and Judy are out. She tries to summon a spirit but accidentally awakens the evil trapped in the Annabelle doll.

Even though the Warrens are included in many of the promotional trailers and posters, it was a bit of a surprise to see that they weren’t big parts of the story. However, this left room to explore the bond that’s been formed between Mary and Judy. As soon as Mary’s character is introduced, Judy runs up to her and gives her a giant hug.

There’s a scene near the beginning of the film where it’s revealed that they never keep secrets between one another. Mary also plans to celebrate Judy’s birthday early. Both of these instances are true signs of a strong friendship if not sibling dynamic. It’s clear that they have a strong relationship, most of which is explored throughout the rest of the film. So, when the spirit trapped within Annabelle is released, both Mary and Judy do everything in their power to protect each other.

Daniela’s character was one of the major highlights of the film, a surprise given the kind of film Annabelle Comes Home is. The previous Annabelle films have all focused mainly on the aspect of possession. This film takes it one step further by dealing with loss and resentment. Most of the aspects relating to loss and resentment are shown through the character of Daniela. Although she wants to see if the Warrens’ home really is haunted by spirits, she has ulterior motives that move her investigate the home. As her search for spirits becomes more, we begin to learn about her past. In true horror fashion, as we learn about her, we realize that she didn’t release Annabelle on purpose, moving audiences to sympathize with her.

The worldbuilding aspects and easter eggs in Annabelle Comes Home add a lot to the film. Even after having two films prior to now, much is really known about the Annabelle doll. We only know where the doll was created and how it was passed down to different homes.

Annabelle Comes Home explores more of the spirit’s mythology and how the possession really works. As a fan of the series, it’s great to finally get a bigger explanation of what the spirit is capable of. On top of the mythology, the easter eggs that connect it to the other films within the Conjuring universe also expands the world and others set up future films, building anticipation for more Warren films in the future.

Unfortunately, Annabelle Comes Home relies too much on jumpscares. Gone are the days of films like The RingThe Grudge, or The Descent which scared audiences with true horror. Instead, the film devotes too much time to set up just jumpscares that often felt predictable. In fact, they’re predictable to the point where any audience member could easily count the seconds it takes for the scare to pay off. While Annabelle: Creation, the second film in the series, did have elements of horror, it’s hard to imagine why this one is rated-R. It would be a mistake to think the R-rating comes from the elements of horror since the film relies heavily on jump scares.

Not only was Annabelle Comes Home lacking elements of true horror, but there were often humorous moments that felt completely unnecessary. Many of those moments could very easily pull audiences away from the few instances where the film is actually trying to establish a brand of horror outside jumps.

In fact, most of the comedic moments come from the Annabelle doll and Mary’s love interest, Bob (Michael Cimino). The doll has a knack for appearing in strange places, which comes off more funny than scary. Specifically, there are scenes where doors are open and Annabelle is standing behind them with the aim to scare the viewer. That said, it’s the strange nature in which the doll appears that gives it a humorous effect.

One of the common issues within all of the films within the Conjuring Universe is that they don’t find any real way to talk about elements of Catholicism although they lean on Catholic imagery heavily. Prayers, crucifixes, and exorcisms are common practices used to deal with the spirits in the films but nothing is done to explain the meaning behind them.

It would be hard to imagine how several Catholic elements and possible crisis that arise from them could be explored in these kinds of films, but they could certainly find ways for it to be done, given the amount of exposition in The Curse of La Llorona done to explain Mexican traditions. But overall, the films in this universe make it seem as if these beliefs are the saving grace that will repel these spirits away without any real explanation as to why.

As a fan of not only the previous films but the entire Conjuring series, I wanted to loved this film. Annabelle Creations was a major improvement from its predecessor. This film felt like it took two steps back in the opposite direction. It’s quite a disappointing end to a series of films that were starting to create a story that was seemingly on its way to make an impact on the rest of the cinematic universe. I’m hoping that future films are able to deliver not only in creating real horror but in telling stories that audiences will come back to see over and over again.

Annabelle Comes Home is now playing in theaters.

Annabelle Comes Home
  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10
5/10

TL;Dr

This film felt like it took two steps back in the opposite direction. It’s quite a disappointing end to a series of films that were starting to create a story that was seemingly on its way to make an impact on the rest of the cinematic universe.