Keeping It Simple: Our Review of ‘Annabelle Comes Home’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 28, 2019
Keeping It Simple: Our Review of ‘Annabelle Comes Home’

Even when you ultimately clear a low bar of expectations…you’re still pretty happy about it.

Annabelle Comes Home as yet another chapter in the universe of The Conjuring actually does a better job than installments as it just locks the protagonists in house with a possessed demon doll trying to get them.

Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren bring the possessed doll to the locked artifacts room in their home, placing her “safely” behind sacred glass and enlisting a priest’s holy blessing. But an unholy night of horror waits as Annabelle awakens the evil spirits in the room, who all set their sights on a new target—the Warrens’ ten-year-old daughter, Judy, and her friends.

It makes sense that long time screenwriter on the series Gary Dauberman slides into the director’s chair for this installment because Annabelle Comes Home is probably the simplest but strongest of the entire series because it quite honestly just focuses on trying to create some genuinely scary and creepy moments rather than over saturate it all with style to make up for a lack of substance.

With all these films starting to criss cross into one another it’s hard to keep track of what or when everything is happening, but here we keep it remarkably simple.  The Warrens have encountered Annabelle and are keeping her lockup for safe keeping.  That is until they go away for a night and leave their precocious 10 year old daughter, who is bemoaning her lack of friends with her babysitter (and her best friend) for a night of scary hijinks.

It’s quite honestly the perfect setup, despite the obvious fact that it’s probably the most predictable one at the exact same time.  Gary Dauberman allows it all to stay very self contained and isn’t necessarily concerned with any kind of grandiose world building and just wants it all to be insidiously creepy once the action gets going.

Along with the others in The Conjuring universe these films quite simply look like a million bucks and have not only excellent care taken in aspects like production design, musical additions and sound design but here we get a little more.  Not only are the jump scares (which admittedly the franchise leans on a little too much) effectively scary but it all plays out in a tight fashion to never allow the audience time to calm down all that much.  It all makes for a fun little ride in thanks to tight storytelling and some solid performances.

Thankfully Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren are in the background of this one and it’s just where they needed to be as this story just isn’t about them.  Young McKenna Grace with her shockingly long list of credits to her name is incredibly strong here with more than enough stage presence and savvy about her to carry the narrative in a film like this.  She successfully draws us into her predicament and we quickly get invested in her strife without any show biz trickery, she just makes us like her and gives a damn.  Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife we’re good opposite her as her babysitters and friends who had some guidance to give for a young woman who’s smart enough to know that her parents mean and well and are doing good work, but also driving her up the wall for being ‘weird’.  All three have great chemistry together and the script has a fantastic balance between the scary moments and the occasionally funny zinger thrown into the proceedings for good measure.

Yeah, Annabelle Comes Home is a pretty simple affair, but that’s not a bad thing.  Sometimes you just want to know where the jump scares will be and that everyone will be OK at the end of the night with a lesson learned.  It’s formula sure, but it’s one that works.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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