The Conjuring franchise of films has become the second highest-grossing horror franchise of all time - coming in right behind Godzilla - and in my opinion, for good reason: these films have created scares and terrorized audiences since the first film was released in 2013. Now at its seventh release, Annabelle Comes Home is the third movie about the haunted doll, and its release this weekend has generated many mixed reviews among horror fans. The movie takes demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren out of the story, and sees their daughter Judy and her babysitters as the ones responsible for fighting off the evil that Annabelle hosts. As a die-hard fan of the franchise, I couldn't get my hands on a ticket to this movie quick enough, and made sure Soulless Cult was there to see Annabelle Comes Home for myself; does it live up to the other movies in the franchise? In a way, totally - but it does feel like it falls short of the other amazing films in the Conjuring universe, unfortunately. Warning: spoilers ahead! Continue reading at your own discretion!
The main plot to the film is pretty much in the title: Ed and Lorraine bring the creepy doll home, and have it blessed by a priest - but that simply isn't enough to protect the world from the doll. The couple have the doll encased in its iconic glass display case - crafted with glass from a church - and that glass is supposed to contain the evil that the doll is used as a conduit for. The Warrens have to leave town for the night, and hire babysitter Mary Ellen to look after their daughter Judy while they're away. Word is getting out about the Warrens and their work with the paranormal, and Mary Ellen's friend Daniela drops by the house to hang out with the two girls - but to also see the family's collection of artifacts and to see if she can harness any of them to contact her deceased father. Unfortunately for the three girls, Annabelle's case gets opened up and her evil is unleashed upon the house where the girls are imprisoned with imaginable horrors. The artifact room comes alive and with it, all the terror that was contained within it - and it's up to the girls to get Annabelle back into her case to end the night from hell.
Annabelle Comes Home is far from a shitty movie - I walked out of the theater feeling like I was thoroughly entertained for two hours - but it's definitely not without its flaws. I've been loyally following the Conjuring series of films since the beginning, and this one just felt weaker than the others. It's no secret that these movies heavily rely on jumpscares to make the film successful - it's a common element that we've seen throughout all seven films. The terror isn't so much in the story or in the form of a mindfuck; the scares are entirely in things jumping out at you, subtly appearing in the background, or things moving in various creepy ways. With this film, very few of the scares were unpredictable or ones that a typical horror fan wouldn't see coming. There's definitely a few elements that would catch audiences off guard, but a lot of them you would see coming. That in itself - in my opinion, anyway - doesn't make a bad movie, it just takes away some of the surprise elements that make jumpscare-heavy movies extra good. That being said, I fucking loved one thing about this movie: watching the iconic, coveted artifact room we've grown to love come to live and terrorize the hell out of some girls!
The artifact room is identical to how it has appeared in the past, so all of the sick objects you've seen in past movies are there - you'll surely recognize a ton of them as the camera creepily pans across the room. Annabelle Comes Home places you directly inside the room as the items come to life and its totally fucking awesome - of course, the main star being Annabelle. That was undoubtedly a highlight for me, for sure. But how about Annabelle's appearances in the movie? I'm gonna be totally honest, it feels like you don't even really see her all that much! She definitely has an on-screen presence (and everything crazy going on is because of her release), but for a film with her name in the title, you definitely only see her pop her creepy fucking face in a handful of scenes (which are all good scenes). The highlight of the haunts - without a bit of hesitation - is the Ferryman appearance in the movie. For those who aren't familiar, when you see a corpse with coins placed over the eyes, those coins are used to pay the Ferryman in the afterlife to pay his toll; otherwise, he takes your soul! This story isn't anything new, but his appearance in the film (and the corpses around him) was fucking awesome - it was definitely my favorite part of the movie. As the poor babysitter walks around in the dark with just a dying flashlight and coins are slowly rolling out of the dark in front of her, the suspense is killer as you await his appearance. I absolutely loved this part of the story and thought it was an immediate highlight of the film. But as for the rest of the scares, like I said, a lot will be scares you'll see coming if you've seen a Conjuring film before.
As far as the casting and cinematography go, I thought everything looked and felt great! Mckenna Grace - who played the Warrens daughter Judy - played an excellent role in the film and really surprised me with her huge role. Her facial expressions throughout the movie speak for themselves, and feel 100% authentic - the young girl definitely surprised me with her job. While babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) also had a heavy role in the film, the honorable mention award definitely has to go to Katie Sarife who played Mary Ellen's friend Daniela: the girl who unintentionally unleashed hell when she lets Annabelle out of her enclosure. She has her own dark storyline and dreadful experiences, and I had no idea she played such a heavy part in the movie, but she was totally badass in her part. The look of terror on her face as everything unfolded was pretty believable and Sarife turned out to be an awesome actress for her part. I loved her side story and thought it was an excellent addition to the film. My only real problem with the story was with the ending - and if you've seen the film, you can surely understand why.
You can tell you're watching a Conjuring-based movie just by the way everything looks. All seven of these movies have a very definitive look and feel to them, and that continues right into Annabelle Comes Home - and I'm not complaining! There was a ton of darkness in the film, which always adds for an extra level of spook - but the faint lighting and eerie silence is what really brings this movie to life, ironically. The eeriness will be what makes or breaks this movie for you if you're seeing it in theaters, because that extra little bit of eerie can totally change the whole atmosphere. Overall, Annabelle Comes Home is a welcomed addition to the Conjuring franchise, even if it feels like one of the weaker films in the universe. There's definitely some laughable moments, some cheesy jumpscares and questionable actions throughout the movie, but for the most part the film does its job at being entertaining. Are you going to scream? Probably not, but if you enjoy jumpscares you'll probably at least enjoy the attempts at making them entertaining. I wouldn't say you have to run out to go see the movie this weekend in theaters, but I would recommend seeing it on the big screen before it leaves - simply because that eerie silence can't really be replicated at home, if you know what I mean. Otherwise, the film definitely doesn't disappoint, but just don't expect to bring home any nightmares. Until Annabelle gets out again...