While I’m a fan of the Conjuring movies, I hadn’t gotten around to the Annabelle ones until recently, but when I got invited to an advance screening of Annabelle Comes Home, I figured it was time to change that, so I sat down and watched both Annabelle and Annabelle Creation before heading out to the film preview. It’s a great universe James Wan has created here, growing it slowly and organically. It works and while the Annabelle films aren’t perfect, they’ve always been good sequel fodder. Annabelle Comes Home changes all of that.
This movie is not only a great sequel, it’s also a great film in of itself. That’s a hard trick to pull off, but this move manages to fit into the mythology and push it forward, while simultaneously standing alone quite well and giving us a movie that is every bit as terrifying as the first Conjuring was.
I went into the film cold and was genuinely surprised to see Ed and Lorraine Warren so prominently featured. They don’t stick around long and are gone before the midpoint of the first act, but it’s organic – you don’t really even notice their exit (kind of like those “lite” episodes of Doctor Who, like Blink, where the Doctor is really just a supporting character and not really in the episode) as the focus shifts to their daughter Judy, and her two teen babysitters as they spend a terrifying night in the Warren’s home. The premise is simple; what if all those things locked away in the Warren’s occult museum clawed their way out of their basement for the night? In this way, the film trances the Annabelle franchise and becomes something more. It’s not really ANNABELLE comes home, but rather Annabelle COMES HOME.
While the previous Annabelle films have been somewhat doll-centric, focusing on the doll and the evil spirit that travels with it (It’s not really the doll that’s the evil – this isn’t Chucky, rather the doll is an avatar and a conduit for demonic entity(s) in these films) this movie unleashes a whole host of evil spirits, ghosts and demonic influences. This is a hardcore HAUNTING and it is terrifying. McKenna Grace in particular turns out a brilliant performance as 12-year-old Judy Warren, a role that requires a level of intensity that should be beyond her years. She thwarts the evil with prayers and crosses and is every bit a match for Annabelle herself.
The film never fails to be creepy, even when we’re doing the getting to know you thing in the second act, with laughs and aw shucks moments (Pizza Delivery guy, YOU’RE THE REAL MVP!) you can feel the dread creeping through, and by the time we hit act three, everything has turned upside down. I watched the movie with a rowdy audience and as things rapidly spun out of control they shrieked and screamed in disbelief.
I understand why they didn’t want to open against Toy Story 4 and the Child’s Play reboot, but man, it may have been worth the risk, because this just blows them out of the water. Absolutely, DO NOT miss this film. Annabelle Comes Home opens in theaters June 26th