Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, McKenna Grace
Directed by Gary Dauberman
While I’ve been an ardent admirer of the entire Conjuring franchise, I’ve honestly been a little less than enthused with the Annabelle entry into the universe – evil dolls are a thing of the past, and it’s really not like little Annie is the one doing the dirty deeds here. She’s merely a beacon for other spirits according to Lorraine Warren (Farmiga), and at the risk of sounding like a complete pisser, she’s been about as entertaining as that damned Nun flick was. However, in this perfect world we’re livin’ in (cough, cough) the movies have been somewhat of a continual moneymaker (although this latest installment had the weakest opening out of the three) and still have garnered interest from the horror throngs looking to get spooked in the darkened theatres all over the globe. Well, since I’ve gotten my two cents out of the way regarding the prior movies, let’s jump headlong into this empty pool known as Annabelle Comes Home and see what scores the judges give us, what do ya say?
Set shortly before the occurrences that took place in 2013’s The Conjuring, we’ve got everyone’s favorite paranormal exterminators (not the Busters) – Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine having their own little encounter with the ugly little moppet before sticking her inside a protective glass case and blessing it with a priest who makes house calls. Now here’s my issue – with this ENTIRE amassed collection of icons, artifacts and other otherworldly goodies that have some kind of negative influence attached to them, WHY IN THE BLUE HELL would you seat this guidepost of genuine malevolence to sit at the head of the table? Hey, I didn’t have a hand in the film so who am I to complain – on with the show. While we’re on the subject of dilemmas…here’s another one for you: the Warrens are off one evening for a little solo-time, and they leave their sullen 10-year old daughter (Grace) in the able-bodied hands of babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). What’s the problem there, you ask? Well, nothing if that were the end to our dynamic – however, when Mary Ellen’s not-so-discreetly investigative friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) stops in to visit, curiosities take over and precious little Annabelle is “freed” up from her consecrated confines, and that’s when the trouble starts.
Virtually every case-file and remnant of the Warren’s expansive work-history comes into play here, with ghoulies, ghosties…and a CGI werewolf that’s – well, he’s CGI and a werewolf – process that one however you’d like. There are plenty of jittery moments and slam-bang scares that will most assuredly keep the casual horror fan’s ass off the seat, but if you’re a seasoned veteran of the chiller game, then this is really not much more than you’ve witnessed before. What works in an overall scheme seemed like a mini grab-bag of potential Conjuring film applicants – which haunted artifact will spur up enough interest to break free and launch its own film series? It grows a bit tedious in the long run and I felt as if some kind of attention-deficit disorder drug was needed to keep my head from spinning. Dauberman does lay the scares on heavy for those who will truly appreciate the constructive aspect of it all, but with a crowded theater at my back and a full busload of teenyboppers Snapchatting and texting their shrinking gray-matters away into the night without the slightest microcosm of courtesy to fellow filmgoers, some of the magic was lost while attempting to keep the background extras from the last High School Musical movie from wrecking the movie for the rest of us. Ah well, here’s to the youth of today – may you never stumble into traffic, a la Final Destination style, cause you’d never see it coming with your face planted deeply into Alexander Graham Bell’s technologically-mutated offspring’s mirrored screens.
Look, in closing (after my rage-filled diatribe) I’m not going to dissuade anyone from dropping a 10-spot and checking out the latest Annabelle movie, and I sincerely hope that all of you take my offerings on this movie as nothing more than parody and personal horseshit, but I do hope that this franchise undergoes a reconditioning of sorts. What this world needs (at least the horror community part of it) is fresh ideas, not greased snowballs down a steep mountain when it comes to production and presentation. I’d have NO PROBLEM with waiting 5-10 years for another Conjuring film to reappear if it was all for the sake of contemporary frights and uncontaminated theories, but for now we’re all going to have to settle for dollies in glass cases, ugly nuns and CGI werewolves…OUCH.