The Conjuring franchise can be broken down into three segments.  The strongest segment features The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, James Wan’s horror masterpieces.  The weakest segment belongs to The Nun, a scare-less movie that was the product of hype from The Conjuring 2’s main villain.  The middle segment, and most interesting, are the Annabelle movies, Annabelle and Annabelle Creation.  The first Annabelle was awful, a boring movie that added nothing to the franchise and feels similar to The Nun in being a film that tried to capitalize on hype from the first Conjuring.  However, the second film, Annabelle Creation was a complete 180 from the first film and felt more like a Conjuring film in that it was incredibly smart and incredibly scary.

With Annabelle Comes Home, the Annabelle segment of this franchise takes a giant leap towards the strong segment, thanks to some great directing, strong performances, and nonstop scares.

Annabelle Comes Home takes place after the events of Annabelle, as we see Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) taking possession of the unsettling Annabelle doll, which that have deemed not necessarily haunted itself, but as a vessel for other haunted beings.  They take Annabelle home and put her in their forbidden room of other haunted things, but put her in a blessed glass case with a lock so no spirits can get to her.  All should be good right?  Well, not so much.  As the Warren’s head out of town, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) is in charge of babysitting their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), a clairvoyant who can see spirits, much like her mother.  When Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) crashes her babysitting gig, she breaks into the forbidden room of haunted things, touching nearly everything in the room, including unlocking Annabelle’s case.  This causes mayhem throughout the night, as all the spirits come back to terrorize Judy, Mary Ellen, and Daniela.

Annabelle Comes Home is a truly great modern haunted house movie.  Dauberman does a masterful job knowing the Warren’s house and showing us every closet, room, and hallway, establishing a claustrophobic feel and endless doom as dozens of ghosts and spirits attack the three girls and we have no idea how they are going to get out of it.  With tracking shots of our characters walking around the house, the 70’s wallpaper and carpet, the various spirits we are introduced too, and the general terror of the house, I was reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  All I was missing was a door to open and a wave of blood come out of it.

Dauberman also drew inspiration from James Wan, who’s somewhat the godfather of the Conjuring series.  Wan is a master of blocking and understanding space in all of his films.  From the Conjuring films to his big-budget films like Aquaman, Wan always allows us to see every inch of our setting and Dauberman makes sure we know every inch of this house.  The whole film takes place in the Warren’s home and just outside of it and by the end of it, I could tell you where everything was placed in the house.  He does this by letting his camera float through the house and lets scenes play out in deliberate single takes, making the movie relentlessly tense, as you are scanning every inch of the screen waiting for something to happen or something to pop out.  Sometimes nothing will happen, other times you will be bludgeoned with a horrific sequence.  But the beauty of it is that you never know when it’s coming and you’re never prepared for it when it happens.

The scares in this movie are non-stop.  The last hour of the movie is an absolutely horrifying experience that had people screaming in my screening.  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and some of the demonic beings have haunted me since I saw the film, particularly the Ferryman, who ranks up there with The Crooked Man sequence from The Conjuring 2 as one of the franchises scariest moments.

But through all the scares and tension, Dauberman gives us fully rounded and realized characters in a film that looks at being different and grief.  Shout out to our trio of ladies who give terrific performances, especially Mckenna, who has proven to be a bonafide talent and has an incredibly bright future.  Annabelle Comes Home is a scary good chapter in the Conjuring Universe.

Follow Kevin on Twitter and Instagram, @kevflix.

About Kevin Wozniak

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