ANNABELLE COMES HOME, US, 2019.Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Michael Cimino, Samara Lee, Steve Coulter. Directed by Gary Dauberman. 106 minutes. Rated M (Horror, violence and coarse language).
We are noticing that film franchises which tend to increase and multiply are being characterised as a “Universe”. This third Annabelle film is now part of The Conjuring Universe: two Conjurings with a third for 2020 and the spinoff, The Nun.
Fans will know that Annabelle is a mysterious doll but, as we are reminded now, she is not possessed by evil but she is a channel for evil and malevolence in the world, demonic powers wanting to seize souls through her. As the film opens, she is being brought home for their museum of malevolent objects, by Ed and Lorraine Warren whom we have met in the other films.
In fact, Ed and Lorraine Warren were actual characters (despite the statement at the end of the film that none of the characters bears any resemblance to actual people). From the 1960s then for the best part of 40 years, they were involved in strange experiences, the best-known being the Amityville Horror and its exorcism. They continued working in the US (and also at Enfield in London, a television film being made of the story). In fact, they were media celebrities and, as we consider newspaper headline here, the question is raised “hero or hoax?”. And they have been played in the films by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson.
After a few mild adventures and Lorraine having a clairvoyant vision of characters standing outside a cemetery in the dark, they bring Annabelle home and lock her in her glass case. They then go off to a conference, leaving their young daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of a very nice babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) who is dressed and behaves like a nicely-bred teenager of the 1970s.
While the first part of the film seems very mild, PG kind of entertainment, there is nothing particularly gory or grisly about the horror. It is probably best described as “spooky” rather than “scary” although, of course, there are some scares. (One reviewer, inured to horror films even use the word “cosy”.)
Most of the action takes place overnight, a lot of it in the dark as the evil powers are arbitrary in lights going on and off, television sets turned on and off, stereos… It may have been a quiet night at the Warren’s except that Mary Ellen’s friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife) is much more forward in her manner, very curious (and a kind of moral for the film would be “curiosity killed the cat – or almost”).
Actually, the plot is a little more complex because Daniela has a secret and wants some help in contact with the spirit world to resolve her sense of guilt.
So, many things go bump (and variation sounds on bump) in the night, including a mysterious werewolf presence outside where Bob, the nice young man from the supermarket who serenades Mary Ellen at the window, has an opportunity to save Judy when she has to go outside to the car to get Mary Ellen’s inhaler (it is that kind of domestic spooky drama). Of course, there is a lot more, especially when Daniela unlocks the door of the Museum, ignoring the warning about not touching anything. Plenty of spooky mayhem, threats to Daniela, troubles for Mary Ellen and Judy, a challenge to get Annabelle back in her class case – and lock the door!
Ed and Lorraine get back, give some kindly advice to Daniela, thank Mary Ellen, meet Bob, and Judy, fearful because she felt she was not liked at school, having everyone turn up to celebrate her birthday party – which does mean that so much of the film is rather cosy!
There is a final photo of the actual Ed and Lorraine and Judy with the information that Lorraine died in 2019.
Roadshow Release June 27th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.