Annabelle Comes Home

 

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The seventh chapter in the Conjuring Universe franchise replaces the tedious old jump scares with good old-fashioned suspense.

   
Annabelle Comes Home

Welcome to the dollhouse: Annabelle and Katie Sarife

 

‘Tis the season of the doll. First there was the return of Chucky in the reboot of Child’s Play. Then there was a whole nursery of them in Toy Story 4 – none scarier than the ventriloquist dummies that terrorise Forky and Woody in the Second Chance antique shop. And now Annabelle wants to play. Annabelle is the demonic doll we first encountered in The Conjuring (2013) who went on to appear in her own stand-alone horror films, Annabelle (2014) and Annabelle: Creation (2017). Now she’s in the capable hands of the demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), who we last saw in The Conjuring 2 (2016). And all is explained: Annabelle is not possessed after all, as evil spirits are unable to possess inanimate objects. Demons just use them as a conduit, to give them the impression of being possessed.

 

In an effort to end Annabelle’s reign of terror, the Warrens drive the doll home to their house in California and, following a ritual performed by a priest, have it locked away in a glass case in their ‘artefact room.’ The latter is an Aladdin’s cave of previously possessed objet d'art and so the room is secured by four varieties of lock. Then, when they’re away overnight to investigate a new case, they leave their ten-year-old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of an asthmatic babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). All is fine until Mary Ellen receives a surprise visit from her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife), who is seeking to contact her recently deceased father…

 

The last three films in the so-called Conjuring Universe were all pretty dire. But there’s a new director on board, and he’s Gary Dauberman. What he’s done here is to take the old scenario and pare it down to its bare essentials. So, instead of cranking up a welter of jump scares and CGI effects, he’s gone the other way, exploiting the viewer’s imagination. There are clichés, to be sure, but they are effective ones. Thus, the Warren’s house seems to be steeped in permanent gloom, requiring ineffective lights in every room, even in the daytime. Accordingly, Dauberman plays with the audience’s peripheral vision, stroking the edges of the screen with barely visible apparitions. Much of the action occurs in almost near darkness, a daring device that actually reaps dividends. The hardened horror fan knows that the mayhem will come, but the director maintains a mood of suspense for a surprisingly extended duration. The result is a feeling of deep unease, leading to a sphincter-flinching finale when it arrives. Joseph Bishara’s skilfully calibrated score is another bonus, while the usual tropes of the genre are tweaked with confidence. For once, a case of less proves to be considerably more.

 

And there’s a creepy postscript: the film is dedicated to Lorraine Warren (1927-2019), the character played by Vera Farmiga.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Michael Cimino, Samara Lee, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Luca Luhan, Steve Coulter, Oliver Dauberman.

 

Dir Gary Dauberman, Pro James Wan and Peter Safran, Screenplay Gary Dauberman, Ph Michael Burgess, Pro Des Jennifer Spence, Ed Kirk Morri, Alain Romi, Liz Calandrello and Stuart Sperling, Music Joseph Bishara, Costumes Leah Butler.

 

New Line Cinema/Atomic Monster Productions/The Safran Company-Warner Bros.

105 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 10 July 2019. Cert. 15.