The evil doll first introduced in the “The Conjuring” returns to scare the living daylights out of the daughter of famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren in “Annabelle Comes Home,” the fun and frightening third entry in the “Annabelle” franchise starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga and a top-notch Mckenna Grace (“Gifted”).
Taking over the directorial reins is “Annabelle” and “It” writer Gary Dauberman, who makes a memorable feature debut with this freaky haunted house flick. Sure to satisfy the horror fans much like the previous two installments, Dauberman’s spooky script, with a story credit to producer James Wan, offers audiences a fairly basic premise – a child home alone in a house of horrors– and ratchets up the suspense to an almost overwhelming degree as the evil doll utilizes all the haunted artifacts in the family home to wreak nonstop havoc. Beyond the creepy storyline that is certain to keep audiences captivated, the acting of “Annabelle Comes Home” stands out for the full commitment to the craziness onscreen, most memorably from rising child actor Mckenna Grace, who is tasked with carrying the film and does so with veteran poise.
Taking place in the ‘70s roughly a year after the events of “Annabelle,” the film follows famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they adjust to a relatively quiet life after having locked Annabelle up behind protective glass in the basement alongside their other haunted artifacts. Their ten year-old daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace) is having a difficult time at school due to the unwanted attention her parents are receiving in the press for their unusual occupation. Even still, Judy heeds her parents’ warnings to stay away from the basement and especially away from Annabelle.
Unfortunately, not everybody is as obedient as Judy. While her parents are out for the night, Judy stays at home along with her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and her overly inquisitive friend Daniela (Katie Sarife). As it happens, Daniela is seeking answers to a tragedy in her life, and she uses the opportunity of the Warren’s being away to sneak into the basement and unleash Annabelle, who serves as a “beacon for evil forces,” in hopes of finding those answers. Once Annabelle is removed from her glass case, all hell breaks loose, and it’s up to Judy to call upon her own powers to try to rid the home of evil.
Using the Warren family home as the spooky setting for the house of horrors premise, writer-director Gary Dauberman milks the location for all its worth, so much so that the abundance of haunted artifacts, creaky doors, and evil spirits eventually grows a little repetitive. Still, as a directorial debut, “Annabelle Comes Home” impresses for its sustained suspense and for its wealth of genuinely scary moments. And while Dauberman’s script succeeds more with its tension than its depth, he still delivers a consistently entertaining horror flick that will please the intended audience, and perhaps reel in a few franchise newcomers as well. Helping this haunted house film achieve its terrifying tone is cinematographer Michael Burgess, whose fog-shrouded imagery is a definite standout, as well as the sufficiently sinister score by Joseph Bishara.
Although the premise doesn’t offer a whole lot of screen time for Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in their return roles as the famed husband and wife demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the seasoned actors slide right back into their roles and bring some credibility to the supernatural action. However, this installment earns much of its scares by staging the action from the daughter’s perspective, and McKenna Grace fills that role with commendable skill. Even if horror films aren’t necessarily the best exhibition for an actor’s range, Grace does a hell of a job selling the supernatural scares, and shows that she can carry a film even with little dialogue.
“Annabelle Comes Home” is a haunted house pic you won’t want to miss.
By: Lucas Mirabella
Running Time: 106 minutes
Rated R for horror violence and terror