Annabelle Comes Home movie review: Excellent performances by the young cast keeps this spin-off afloat
Annabelle Comes Home, the third installment of a franchise that is way better than it has any right to be
Who would have thought the original Conjuring film would spawn a sprawling cinematic universe that comprises a prequel trilogy? But here we are with Annabelle Comes Home, the third installment of a franchise that is way better than it has any right to be. It isn’t nearly as effective as the Conjuring movies but it does hold its own when it comes to the good old tactic of loud jump scares.
Demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) return in an extended cameo of sorts, where their presence is taken away from the story for the singular purpose of letting unsuspecting children release the Annabelle doll from captivity. The doll naturally is very happy to be let loose and rallies some of her demon friends to stalk and scare the kids Judy (Mckenna Grace) and Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). What follows is a series of build ups and jolts without much meaning but good enough craft to keep things chugging along to the franchise rounding finale.
The key to appreciating Annabelle Comes Home is to keep your expectations extremely low, so the two or three fun moments really pop out. Nothing that happens in the Conjuring universe reflects intelligence or newness in the horror genre, and this film too relies on the excellent performances from the young cast to maintain your interest levels. Things that go bump in the night are complemented by things that attack you needlessly but then don’t kill you – a theme that works in short bursts but doesn’t ultimately make any sense because you tend to wonder what the endgame for these ghosts is.
Gary Dauberman, who wrote all the previous films in the franchise, is promoted to director’s chair and does a fairly good job of offering more of the same – he uses the same color palette, the same sound design style, the same doll motifs etc. But he does attempt to mix things up with the addition of a werewolf and other unexpected entities that stalk the kids. The film works best when it goes for the throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach, this is particularly enjoyable when the story peeks out from its Conjuring jail cell, giving us a glimpse into what is possible outside the brand name.
Where Annabelle Comes Home fails, however, is in giving horror nerds anything truly grissly or frightening.
There isn’t a drop of blood shed in this film and while catering to a larger ‘safe’ demographic isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the franchise could do well in upping its game with pure dread going forward.
Dauberman also uses a little too much CGI, which becomes a deterrent especially when the ‘less is more’ approach has worked so well in James Wan’s recent films. Luckily this one’s a little more light-hearted and ‘fun’ compared to the deadly seriousness of the previous films, and it proves yet again that a small change is enough to propel a big juggernaut of a horror franchise because audiences will check it out anyway.
Annabelle Comes Home isn’t a must watch in the theaters but it would definitely score a lot of views when it ultimately streams online.
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