Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

AnnabelleComesHomePoster.jpgDirector: Gary Dauberman
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Michael Cimino, Paul Dean, Steve Coulter, Luca Luhan, Anthony Wemmys

Having served as a writer and producer on many films in The Conjuring Universe, Gary Dauberman makes his directorial debut in its latest instalment. The result feels like a large event, which is one of the more interesting entries which adds much life into the Annabelle side of the franchise.

In an effort to keep the Annabelle doll from wreaking more havoc, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga) lock it away behind sacred glass, centred in the artefacts room within their house. As the pair leave their daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of babysitter Mary (Madison Iseman), the arrival of her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) coincides with the release of Annabelle, who awakens the evil spirits within the room.

Possibly the most recognisable face of the franchise, the Annabelle doll makes a return, serving as a conduit for various spirits. This is an opportunity for the story to go for broke, utilising a grab bag of horror beings to make up the story, and as prior instalments have shown, act as a backdoor to spin-off films. It does lend way to some creepy figures, with The Ferryman especially succeeding whenever the film grants it attention. Less successful are many of the forgettable beings, such as the wasted potential of a possessed board-game, or a poorly rendered CG Wolfman. It's not enough that they're given so little to do, but their excision from the film would not have impacted the story. Then there's the bridal dress, whose design is so lacklustre and basic, it could've easily been La Llorona.

Thankfully, the titular being is used to great effect this time. Annabelle acts as the unsettling ringleader of this mass haunting, with her appearances serving as a harbinger of the other spirits, ready to make trouble for our protagonists. While the scares aren't consistent, Gary Dauberman does manage to hold the tension rather well, thankfully relying on more than loud noises and cheap jumps (though those do rear their head). What's more successful is the emotional resonance, as the focus lays on a small group of characters, giving an intriguing exploration of each one.

While Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga make small appearances as the core of this universe, The Warrens, this film is more interested in how their line of work affects their daughter, Judy. She has complete understanding and empathy for her parents line of work, but just simply wants her classmates to attend her birthday party, and Mckenna Grace conveys this extraordinarily. She's looked after by Mary Ellen, her babysitter played by Madison Iseman, a likeable character who wants to ensure nothing bad happens to Judy, and just wants to tell her crush how she feels. Joining them is Mary's friend, Daniela, a figure who initially comes off as rather unlikable. As the film goes on, and we get to know her all the better, she becomes somebody to sympathise with, whose actions we completely understand. This is thanks to the script allowing a better understanding of her, and Katie Sarife giving a moving performance.

It may work better with the emotional moments than the scary ones, but Annabelle Comes Home is an effectively focused chiller. It breathes new life into this horror universe, through a variety of ghosts and spirits.