The debuting director Gary Dauberman seems to know the drill, but “Annabelle Comes Home” only tickles in the spots it should punch.
A third film focused on the creepy doll named Annabelle brings the audience to the Warrens and their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace). The girl is left to stay for the night with her teenage babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Things go awry, when Mary’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) comes round and, against the warnings, goes to the Warrens’ secret room where Annabelle is stored.
“Conjuring” is one of those out-of-the-blue franchises that wasn’t expected to grow so exponentially. But contrary to many other attempts at universe-building in horror, this one offers a plethora of creepy creatures and ghosts, enough to bless piles of other movies.
Considering that opulence, it seems bromidic to be so tied-up to just one of them. But here we are, with “Annabelle Comes Home” delivering the same old story about a heavy-hangover-looking lighthouse that docks all other malevolent beings around.
This time, the hell ride takes place in the house of the Warrens, but the stars aren’t, lamentably, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Their presence is reduced to a brief prologue, that’s concluded with a witty inspiration from “Star Wars” opening credits (and an awfully out-of-the-mood ending). The second we see the film’s title in bloody red font, the real heroes of the story arrive – Mary Anne and her friend, Daniela.
I’ll give it to Dauberman that he managed to breathe life into his three female leads. Madison Iseman as Mary Anne is overly cute, a perfect girl from the next door, who embodies the purest selflessness imaginable. You just wish no harm is done to her. A similar tone is played for Judy, a defenceless kiddo, who happens to be growing up in the wake of her parents’ hard time.
Then, there is Daniela – a much more troubling character from the storytelling point of view. Daniela’s a feisty one, a cocky girl that has a personal interest in snooping around the Warrens’ manor. But Katie Sarife isn’t as convincing as either off her on-screen companions, making her little drama all less compelling. And that constitutes a big problem for the director inclined to give her a quasi-leading role in the spectacle.
Being trapped in a house full of spooks strongly reminds of the dreary “13 Ghosts”, but Dauberman’s direction fortunately avoids the kitsch which made the aforementioned movie plummet. Nonetheless, “Annabelle Comes Home” plays with the apparitions brought by the creepy doll in the most obvious of ways – they slam the doors, turn some creepy items on, throw things off the table. Dauberman, who knows his ways in that universe given he’s been the co-writer of several films in the series, puts this whole machinery in motion, but the rusty sound can be heard from distance.
In the end, the cacophony and abundance of phantasms quickly runs out of fuel. The whole story runs on thin ice too, with the whole point of it being “bring that goddamn doll to the glass showcase“. Dauberman can deceive and delude as much as he wants, but “Annabelle Comes Home” echoes a hoary old chestnut.
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Dir. Gary Dauberman
Hate Grade: 6/10