Dolls are scary, we’re told. This intrepid writer doesn’t fall into that category (though put a snake in front of me and raise me 30ft in the air I would be in tatters) but the illusory dread that comes from such figures, particularly those of the porcelain variety, has been the stuff of nightmares for generations. It’s been no surprise, then, that the Annabelle series – itself a spin-off of The Conjuring – has struck such a nerve with audiences that we have arrived at Part III in the on-going saga of the doll with an axe to grind against the world.
Anyone who saw David F. Samberg‘s superb sequel, which mixed classic ghost story motifs with the jumps that are the obsessions of modern-day horror, will certainly be excited for this one, not least because of a neat if severely underused Conjuring crossover. For our favourite demonologists, Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are part of the narrative for the threequel, with their initial encounter with Annabelle, and how it wound up in their basement full of objets d’evil, is the driving force here. In fact, it’s quite close to home for Warrens, literally, as the devilish doll has made a beeline for their daughter (McKenna Grace) after being unleashed again by her babysitter’s grieving friend, who believes she can find a way to speak to her dead father through the Warren’s many spiritual nick-nacks. She’s half right.
While its predecessors were part haunted house/flat stories mixed with some more far-reaching components, Annabelle Comes Home goes for broke with the entirety of the film, bar a short epilogue, setting proceedings within the confines of the Warren’s abode and while the claustrophobia of the space it inhabits bring some terror, it feels like a bit of a cheat.
Indeed, the whole endeavour here has a sense of being lazy and frighteningly undercooked, almost feeling incomplete given that most of the action doesn’t really get going until the final third, by which point it feels completely underwhelming and boring. It’s almost as if a whole film has been chopped to pieces, with the finale so rushed and haphazard that it feels incomplete somehow. Gary Dauberman, who has been with the series since the first Annabelle, makes his debut with this one but it’s the one he will want to forget given the slow, meandering nature of the film that borders on a good replacement for sleeping pills.
There’s a couple of decent scares in here but so few and far between are they that it’s hard to remember them once all is said and done. He, and the film, survive to tell the tale just about thanks to a winning cast, with Grace and Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) suitably startled throughout, while the sight of Farmiga and Wilson together again is always welcome.
Annabelle Comes Home is, frankly, a huge disappointment all round given just how memorable and genuinely terrifying the last installment was. Bereft of any real scares, tension or original ideas, it flounders along without too much care or attention, only springing into life sporadically through its lean runtime. Thank goodness for Swedish sunshine and pagan rituals, then.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=2]
Horror, Mystery | USA, 2019 | 15 | 10TH July 2019 (UK) | Warner Bros Pictures | Dir.Gary Dauberman | Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman