ANNABELLE COMES HOME is some healing, good-natured horror comfort food. It delivers in the spooky scares department and harbors a potent enough current of demonic chaos yet still plays as mellow as a seventies-era pop song. You wouldn't think a movie about a cursed doll that acts as a magnet for evil entities would be the feel-good, positive energy spouting flick of the summer but for me it is. Heck, even the simple act of offering a portal into a time when cell phones didn't exist, grocery store prices were reasonable, board games were abundant and shag carpets covered every inch of the floor was chicken soup for my horror soul. I guess it's overall rather tame (why in the world is it rated R? It should be mandatory slumber party viewing) but I can have my nerves challenged elsewhere; it's kind of a nice summer respite just seeing decent people doing decent things every once in a while. This movie is old school fun. It's sort of like THE GATE (teens battle the supernatural while parents are away CAT IN THE HAT-style), 13 GHOSTS (a menagerie of baddies crash the party) and maybe a little bit of FRIDAY THE 13th: THE SERIES (please respect the cursed objects!). It's also so much about dealing with grief and loss and residual guilt and it's all handled sharply.
I also dug this movie because it gave me the opportunity to vicariously experience the wonder of having VERA FARMIGA and PATRICK WILSON as parents. We're back in THE CONJURING universe and the aforementioned are of course (super generously) portraying paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (the film is actually dedicated to Lorraine who recently passed away). The two are leaving their young daughter alone for the night with a babysitter and what could go wrong as long as nobody goes into the room filled with the cursed objects from hell? Daughter Judy (I just heard the theme song to
All in all, this is a well-done side mission in JAMES WAN's CONJURING world. It brings a flavor all of its own by adding more humor and letting things become more surreal and dream-like and less grounded in reality. In that way, it also brought to my mind STUART GORDON's DOLLS with its use of a limited setting and its taking place in one evening "the longest night in the world". Although mostly beautifully handled, I will say that some of the cinematography comes across a little too dark and murky but it's kind of a nice contrast when the spell has been lifted and everything begins to glow with the brightness of a brand new demon-free day. I found the ending rather moving as the characters have all grown to trust each other and Judy who has been ostracized by her peers (for her parents dabbling in the occult) is ultimately embraced and celebrated. It's all very corny but that's what I needed (a tender moment of guidance between Lorraine and repentant Daniela really got to me too).
If you like haunted house flicks, writer GARY (IT, THE NUN, the two previous ANNABELLE flicks) DAUBERMAN's directorial debut is a fun stand-alone, low investment, cozy as hell, nostalgic spook dispenser that's perfect for the heart of summer. As with the doll's sophomore outing ANABELLE: CREATION, I ultimately found the bizarre looking toy to be the least interesting thing inside the much more enthralling canvas that surrounds it but I guess that's how the little dickens operates. The titular character may not amount to too much but she sure keeps great company. This is certainly not the most satisfying flick in the CONJURING canon but it may be the best suited for many a casual re-watch at home (especially when babysitting).