Caoimhe McGee, Contributor.
Annabelle: Don’t Bother Coming Home Doll, Stay Where Ye Are
My first thought when I heard there was another Annabelle film in the works was: why?! Is there really any more of a narrative that can be squeezed out of this godforsaken doll? The short answer is no, not really.
(As I was writing this, I realised that this is actually not the second Annabelle film but the third. I’m now even more confused as to why the world really needed three Annabelle films.)
As a horror fanatic and someone who thought the first Conjuring film was great, I’m always curious to see if any of the other films in the Conjuring universe will live up to their predecessor, but every instalment since has been mediocre at best. This film is no exception, although admittedly it is somewhat better than the laughably bad, first Annabelle film. (Again, I now realise that there’s a whole other one that I have yet to see.) Although this is not the worst film in the franchise by any means, it just felt incredibly unnecessary.
The film basically consisted of over an hour of suspense building and then as much action and jump scares as they could possibly pack into 40 minutes. Every jump scare was dragged out and predictable, with the shots leading up to them lingering on for what seemed like a lifetime, telegraphing each scare before it happened.
Annabelle Comes Home is set just before the first Conjuring film, the opening scene featuring an extended version of the Warrens locking Annabelle away in their artefacts room in 1968, which we also see in The Conjuring. The film then moves to 1969 and follows the Warrens’ daughter Judy, her babysitter Mary Ellen and Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela. Daniela joins Mary Ellen to babysit as she has heard about what the Warrens do for a living and wants to see for herself if the rumours are true. It then turns out that she has her own hidden agenda as she has recently lost her father in a car crash, for which she blames herself, and wants to get in contact with his spirit; and so the inevitable chaos ensues.
There are some interesting character set ups in the film; particularly of Daniela and Judy. Although I cared somewhat for Daniela and found the dead dad storyline vaguely alluring, her character made too many annoyingly stupid decisions for me invest too much into her. I found myself caring the most about Judy, (perhaps due to McKenna Grace’s noteworthy performance), though I was mostly frustrated and longed for more time spent on her narrative. Judy is bullied and friendless due to the life her parents lead and shows signs of possessing the same paranormal senses her mother is gifted with. A deeper delve into what the daughter of the Warrens goes through as a result of their lifestyle would’ve made a far more compelling film. However, none of the characters are given enough attention to muster any real, lasting empathy in the audience.
The main problem I had with this film was that there were simply too many different threads to keep up with. I actually forgot for a period in the middle that the film was supposed to be about Annabelle because there were so many other ongoing subplots about the different ghosts and demons that had been summoned that she seemed peripheral to the plot. Every modern horror trope in the book was also shoehorned in, which resulted in many audible sighs, tuts and “ah for God’s sake” from me in the cinema.
Some genuine moments of humour provided some relief, mostly thanks to Bob, Mary Ellen’s bashful romantic interest. Although, the romance element really wasn’t needed and I cared for it almost as little as I cared for Mary Ellen as a character. The one almost interesting moment Mary Ellen had – where it appeared as if she was being possessed – turned out to be a very dramatic attack of asthma, which wasn’t really bothering her for the rest of the film by the way, and she was instantly cured by one puff of her inhaler.
While the film was uninspired and too busy, there were some intriguing elements; like the ‘Feely Meeley’ board game where you reach into the dark of the box in search of a particular game piece and sometimes hands come reaching out for you in return; and the TV that showed Daniela her actions a few seconds ahead of time; but these were so minor to the film that they became lost in the sea of all the spooky things the film tried to cover. The set and costumes gave the type of nostalgic, autumnal vibe that Halloween lovers will appreciate and that I’m sure will provide plenty of aesthetically pleasing stills for teens posting ‘retro horror pics’ in ten years’ time.
Overall, if you’re looking for great cinema or even a good horror, I’d say give this a miss. Though if, like me, you’re desperate for a semi-decent horror film in an era of mostly terrible ones, this does the job, providing some mild scares, a tolerable plot and some reasonably good acting. The fact that I had to look up synonyms for mediocre when writing this review says it all really.
Director: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga
Run-time: 1hr 50min