The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - ANNABELLE COMES HOME | The Movie Waffler


annabelle comes home review
The Warrens' daughter is terrorised when the Annabelle doll escapes.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Gary Dauberman

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Steve Coulter

annabelle comes home dvd

The Conjuring movies and their seemingly endless series of spin-offs have become synonymous with the mediocrity of modern mainstream horror cinema. The chief criticism of the franchise has been aimed at its lazy construction of scenes that rely cynically on a quiet-quiet-BANG formula. Recent entries (Annabelle: Creation; The Curse of La Llorona) saw the series progress somewhat, even if it was simply from quiet-quiet-BANG to quiet-quiet-quiet-BANG. Annabelle Comes Home has advanced even further to quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet... wait a sec, where's the BANG?

Making his directorial debut after penning several previous entries in this franchise, Gary Dauberman has made the commendable decision to respect his audience and drop the jump scares in favour of slow-burning suspense sequences that often display a level of visual ingenuity previously absent from this series.

annabelle comes home review

Of course, it's still filled with silliness, such as how Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) drive home with the titular tiny terror propped up on their back seat in the movie's opening sequence. After an attempt on their life by the porcelain poltergeist, the Warrens seal Annabelle in a display case made from church glass in their infamous artifacts room.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Scream ]

Heading off to investigate another case (presumably to cut down on Wilson and Farmiga's appearance fees), the Warrens leave their young daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of Marcia Brady lookalike Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), their regular babysitter. When Mary Ellen's friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife), shows up at the Warrens, she can't resist snooping around the artifact room (the keys to which have been helpfully left on the Warrens' desk) and unwittingly frees Annabelle from her glass prison. A night of terror ensues as Annabelle unleashes a variety of spirits in her quest to obtain a soul.

annabelle comes home review

Dauberman draws on the spirit of Scooby Doo and '80s horrors like Poltergeist and the House series as he ramps up the madness throughout the night, hinting at further instalments of this franchise to come (prepare for 'The Ferryman' and 'The Black Shuck'). The result is a confined and clever spook-fest that seems tailor-made for teen sleepover parties. Dauberman smartly uses his film's setting to mine scares - key sequences involve a TV that riffs on the 'warning from the immediate future' frights of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's Resolution movies, and an arresting scene with a colour projector that feels like a nod to German Expressionist horror. Rather than using overbearing sound effects and didactic music to let us know when we should be scared, Dauberman lets his images do the work, and it's all the more effective as we gradually come to half glimpse horrors in the background.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Nightmare Alley ]

It's also a rare teen horror that boasts likeable characters, which goes a long way to making us care about whether the assembled kids actually make it through the night. Perhaps what's most surprising about Annabelle Comes Home is how melancholic and touchingly affecting it is in parts. Daniela's curiosity regarding the Warrens' haunted artifacts is revealed to come from a place of personal loss, and young Judy is struggling to fit in at school thanks to her parents' reputation. Both Sarife and Grace do a fine job of selling their characters' individual torments.

annabelle comes home review

As ever with these movies, the elephant in the room is the fact that this entire franchise is a not so thinly veiled work of Christian propaganda. Nothing wrong with that per se; after all, much of horror cinema mines religious subject matter. The trouble with this franchise's co-opting of Christianity is that in real life the Warrens were con artists who made a living preying on weak and vulnerable people who believed in the nonsense they proffered, and until their recent passing, they reaped enormous financial rewards from Hollywood's licensing of their stories. Not only that, but the series has erased other religions, such as how The Conjuring 2 pushed aside that 'real life' story's Jewish exorcist to make way for the Warrens, who played no role of any consequence in the 'real life' events that movie draws on.

Annabelle Comes Home proposes the increasingly widespread myth that America's Christian community is a misunderstood minority rather than that nation's dominant cultural and political force. "Don't worry," Ed assures his daughter, "you'll find someone who shares your beliefs someday," as if her beliefs aren't shared by three quarters of the American population. The scene in question is so well played by Wilson and Grace however, that I found myself momentarily touched, buying into this victimhood nonsense. This series has always traded in propaganda, but Annabelle Comes Home is admittedly effective propaganda.

Annabelle Comes Home is on Netflix UK now.