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Annabelle Comes Home brings sense of humour to tired horror franchise

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/6/2019 (459 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Let’s face it. All the movies in the so-called "Conjuring Universe" are a little exhausting.

The franchise encompasses a pair of Conjuring movies (a third chapter is in the works), last year’s The Nun and three Annabelle movies, detailing the havoc unleashed by the titular cursed doll.

WARNER BROS. PICTURES</p><p>Annabelle Comes Home is the third film dedicated to the titular demon doll.</p>

WARNER BROS. PICTURES

Annabelle Comes Home is the third film dedicated to the titular demon doll.

Series creator James Wan, possibly in a sustained act of atonement for helping create the sadistic Saw franchise, has tended to aim for a classical feel — the moody-gothic trappings of Mario Bava coupled with the booming-thrumming soundscapes of The Exorcist. But for the most part, the movies don’t deliver especially compelling stories in which to invest your fear.

What makes Annabelle Comes Home a novelty in the franchise is that a sense of fun has been added to the mix. Perhaps it should have been titled Annabelle Lets Her Hair Down.

Credit director/co-writer Gary Dauberman, who gets added value from the late ’60s/early ’70s time frame, in which a whole assembly of boogey-persons are competing for horror points with floral wallpaper, rayon leisure wear and mid-jowl-length sideburns.

The movie starts with religious ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) taking possession of the heinously ugly doll, Annabelle. The Warrens take the hell-homunculus to their home to a locked basement room chock full of other cursed objects. The Warrens secure it behind chapel glass after getting a priest to neutralize her with some choice incantations.

Then, Ed and Lorraine take off for some other adventure, leaving their only daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of good-hearted babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Unfortunately for everyone, Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) shows up, too, intent on learning what she can about the Warrens in a bid to make contact with a deceased loved one. When she enables Annabelle’s escape from the cabinet, all hell breaks loose.

The story accommodates callbacks to other movies in the Conjur-verse, as well as an addition of all-new ghouls, including a notably demonic "Ferryman" spirit whose past victims start appearing throughout the house with coins over their eyes.

Dauberman achieves a less bombastic tone than other movies in the franchise. The teen or pre-teen protagonists land the film smack into the proper audience demographic for the film, which is teens. Ironically, the movie is rated R in the U.S.; the Manitoba classification of 14A will generally make it easier for the movie’s proper audience to see it. Each young character is dealing with a particular frailty, especially Judy, who has apparently inherited her mother’s psychic gifts.

Another irony: the movie’s youngest cast member gives the movie a sombre centre. Mckenna Grace is impressive and grounded enough that one doesn’t miss the presence of Wilson and Farmiga in the movie’s midsection.

Instead of invoking Bava, the movie actually makes one think of teen-targeted period chillers from the ’60s such as the original 13 Ghosts or I Saw What You Did, both produced by master of ballyhoo, William Castle.

As a director, Dauberman may well be possessed by Castle’s ghost. In any case, he infuses the franchise with a touch of old-school showmanship.

randall.king@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @FreepKing

WARNER BROS. PICTURES</p><p>Vera Farmiga, right, carries the devil-doll as Steve Coulter, playing a priest, prepares to sprinkle the cursed toy with holy water.</p>

WARNER BROS. PICTURES

Vera Farmiga, right, carries the devil-doll as Steve Coulter, playing a priest, prepares to sprinkle the cursed toy with holy water.

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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History

Updated on Thursday, June 27, 2019 at 7:35 AM CDT: Adds photos

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