Annabelle Comes Home Is Serviceable Confetti for Your Horror Party
Annabelle Comes Home is a shifty little film about a haunted house, the third entry in the Annabelle franchise, and the seventh installment of the ever-growing Conjuring universe. James Wan, the man responsible for the horror galaxy, surely knows one thing well; that in today’s parlance, it’s better to create a universe and expand on it, than just depend on serialized sequels.
Wan’s (who also co-wrote the story along with producing it) dexterity in building a ballooning universe of ghouls, ghosts and goblins is evident in the current material too. Like the cursed doll Annabelle that he doled out of his Conjuring universe, he plants a few more such supernatural entities in the current chapter. You get a ghost with coins for eyes, a werewolf that spins out of a swirling fog, a wedding dress that possesses, a board game that attacks and so on. All these beings get their due screen share, and in all likelihood, Wan would be digging into these stories, to ride back and forth for subsequent future chapters, and enlarge his Conjuring mythology further.
The year is 1971. Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) are shipping Annabelle to their home. The film makes it clear for the audience at the very start that Annabelle can’t be destroyed, and should be locked in a blessed cabinet. After all, she is not Chucky who will go for the kill. She is a conduit for evil spirits and demons, and she needs to be contained by the holy water.
This prologue sets the tone for the enclosed premise, as Annabelle lands up at the artifacts’ room of the demonologists. The couple goes out of town, and leave their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) back. No worries, she has an overtly loving babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) to take care of her.
Remember the American cliché about a good kid being alone at home when parents are out of town, and how one troublemaking friend lands up to start a party of hara-kiri?
Here, the rabble-rousing friend is Daniela (Katie Sarife), Mary Ellen’s classmate who pops up uninvited with dubious motive. To no one’s surprise, she lands up at the locked room of cursed objects, and all hell breaks loose.
Gary Dauberman, who has been writing Conjuring chapters along with the It franchise, makes his directorial debut with a film that unfolds over a single night. He is well-oiled in the franchise’s teachings, offering slow-burn to quick-scream moments throughout. But the scares start feeling repetitive after a point, for the film doesn’t have much room to run around when mortal danger is not that palpable.
The only way the film makes its presence justified is by making the girls convincing. They don’t appear like pointless scream queens, but human figures for whom you actually start caring amidst all the howling and hurrying. Anchoring these characters in a certain emotional candor lifts the film from being a ‘70s rug. And when Michael Cimino’s (not to be confused with the famous filmmaker) lovestruck puppy Bob comes around to woo Mary Ellen, the film starts feeling light-footed, with surprising comic deliverables.
Annabelle Comes Home is not as effective as its predecessor Annabelle: Creation (2017), but its housebound dreads will not make you curse your luck. It’s serviceable confetti for your horror party.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. He tweets @RanjibMazumder)
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