Haunted dolls are a nightmare. Their porcelain faces are frozen in haunting smiles that ooze sinister intention. Their unblinking eyes bore holes into your soul as they seem to be absorbing all your secrets and fears. Add dirty skin and a twisted facial expression and you have Annabelle, the doll from hell who was inspired an entire series of films. In its latest installment, Annabelle Comes Home, director Gary Dauberman (who directed the two previous Annabelle films) brings in the Warren family to create an entertaining and delightfully scary film that makes me like blockbuster horror film again.
For those unfamiliar with the story of Annabelle, she is a possessed doll that was the actual property of iconic paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. She was said to be possessed by a demon and was placed in a glass case, never to be touched by another human. Annabelle Comes Home begins as the Warrens, with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson reprising their roles as the couple, pick up this doll and bring her into their home. You know, a wise choice to keep a purely evil object in the same place where you and your young daughter live.
It wouldn’t be a movie about the Warrens if their journey home went according to plan. Their car breaks down on a fog-filled backroad and while Ed tries to fix the engine, Lorraine begins seeing spirits, all while Annabelle is perched in the backseat. When a spirit shoves Ed into the road and a truck almost runs him over, Lorraine realizes that Annabelle attracts other spirits. So of course, let’s place her in their home with other objects possessed by spirits. They finally get her home, bless her, and place her in a glass case where she will remain forever.
Or so they think. As they head out of town for the night, they leave their daughter Janet (Mckenna Grace, Captain Marvel) with their trusted babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman, Goosebumps 2). Nothing new, they’ll eat cake, watch TV, and go to bed, a normal routine. However, Mary Ellen’s friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife, Twisted Sisters), learns via newspaper article about the Warrens’ profession and invites herself over to explore the house. To no one’s surprise, she finds the poorly-hidden keys to the Warrens’ macabre museum and touches absolutely everything. She also opens Annabelle’s case, thinking it’s a sign from her deceased father. Nope, it’s just a demon, and now it has the run of the Warren house and all of its cursed objects. It’s over an hour of suspense, comedy, and fear. It’s up to Janet, with her newfound psychic powers, Mary Ellen, and Daniela to put Annabelle back into her case to restore balance and contain the evil.
“[Daniella] opens Annabelle’s case, thinking it’s a sign from her deceased father. Nope, it’s just a demon, and now it has the run of the Warren house and all of its cursed objects.”
One of the most charming aspects of Annabelle Comes Home is its use of comedy. The film primarily focuses on teenagers, which means the childish jokes will flow (one character’s nickname is “Bob’s Got Balls”). But, they are never overly crude or stupid; rather, the comedy functions as a well-deserved break in tension. These jokes also show that Annabelle Comes Home doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows what it is and leans into it from beginning to end.
While the Warren House has been seen before in previous The Conjuring films, it is such a perfect object of the late 1960s. The floral wallpaper paired with the wood paneling creates such a seemingly innocent space that contains centuries of evil in the basement. It also feels like a labyrinth as the horrors begin. There are so many doors and hallways that could hide an evil spirit. As soon as the sun goes down, the cheerful floral wallpaper turns into something much more sinister.
This is a film that will satisfy fans of The Conjuring films. Sure, Annabelle is the catalyst for the horrors unleashed in the Warren house, but the film is also about showcasing the array of cursed objects seen throughout this franchise. We learn about the Ferryman, a hellhound, the haunted wedding dress, and the giant samurai armor. It gives these objects a small spotlight and a chance to deliver scared without the need to create another unnecessary spinoff film.
Zooming out from Annabelle was the way to go for the third film in this series and the fifth in what is called The Conjuring cinematic universe. We’ve seen the hell that Annabelle can unleash on her own, but what about when she’s thrown into an environment that is made up of solely cursed, haunted, and possessed objects?
“I laughed, I gasped, I jumped so badly that I smashed my funny bone.”
Annabelle Comes Home delivers fun and deserved scares—though it is not without a few cheap jump scares—that makes the latest installment of this franchise worth seeing. I laughed, I gasped, I jumped so badly that I smashed my funny bone. I left the theatre delightfully surprised and with one thought blaring in my head: babysitter Mary Ellen deserves a raise, health insurance, and a 401k for the hell she experiences in Annabelle Comes Home.
Annabelle Comes Home hits theatres on June 26th. Will you be catching this one in theatres? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!