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Annabelle Comes Home review - devil doll plays nice | reviews, news & interviews

Annabelle Comes Home review - devil doll plays nice

Annabelle Comes Home review - devil doll plays nice

The Conjuring franchise in innocent vein, despite the demons

Playtime: Annabelle and Daniela (Katie Sarife)Warner Bros

Annabelle, the demonically-possessed doll now making its third appearance, makes its intentions clear pretty early here.

Scarred by earlier misadventures so no sane child would want it, and sitting balefully in the back car-seat of married demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the latter pictured below), she is soon making vehicles crash and ghosts rise, in a vain effort to prevent her incarceration in the Warrens’ Artifact Room. This chamber of cursed curiosities sits at the heart of the suburban home they share with their young daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace). “The evil is contained,” Ed intones after a sombre old priest has blessed Annabelle’s locked cabinet. Soon enough, of course, Judy discovers that she is the one locked in with it.

The Conjuring franchise continued here is a bizarre place. Very loosely based since James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013) on the exploits of the real-life Warrens (who also investigated the Amityville haunting), spin-offs such as the Annabelle series have expanded its remit while usually retaining its garish 1970s period setting.

From its prologue’s Hammer-style foggy graveyard to crucifixes which reliably ward off evil for the first time since Peter Cushing wielded them, this instalment is especially innocent. The Catholic school its young heroines attend allows natural belief in the afterlife when it assaults them. The effect is both kitsch and kind.Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) gives Annabelle a liftJennifer Spence’s production design is the star of series writer Gary Dauberman’s directorial debut. The Warrens’ Connecticut suburban home is almost overwhelming in its orange-hued detail, matched only by their Artifact Room’s obsessively layered arcana. As Badfinger and the Beach Boys drift dreamily from Judy’s record-player, it’s like a pre-teen Dazed and Confused or, as Annabelle awakes, The Brady Bunch Goes To Hell.

Judy is a brave, lonely girl, ostracised by her classmates for mum and dad’s creepy work, and a gloomy line in conversation. “My parents said I’m not really ready yet to process death,” she sighs to teenage babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Wiseman), when the Warrens leave her in charge for the weekend. They’re soon joined by Daniela (Katie Sarife, pictured below centre with Wiseman and Grace), the relatively bad girl whose dumb behaviour unleashes Annabelle and her evil cohort.

The trophy room is stocked with a degree of horror connoisseurship, from the real Essex legend of the Black Shuck hell-hound to a screen unreeling grisly events in the viewer’s immediate future, a fated nightmare familiar from writers such as Stephen King. Nastiest is Daniela’s assault by a ghost dad who blames her for his car-crash death. The guilt alone proves nearly fatal.Mary Ellen (Madison Wiseman), Daniela (Katie Sarife) and Judy (McKenna Grace)This relentless pile-up of monsters works for a while. The mechanics of the funhouse scares soon take over, though. Whether they remind you of a ghost train or a video game, you can’t take them seriously.

Though this fatally wounds it as a horror film, the inability to imagine Annabelle Comes Home’s heroines ever really coming to harm is, given the genre’s propensity for sacrificing female flesh, a charming relief. Girls have the power here, Annabelle included. Lightweight, camp, yet convincingly moral, the result is more touching than frightening.

It’s like a pre-teen Dazed and Confused or, as Annabelle awakes, The Brady Bunch Goes To Hell


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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