[su_dropcap size=”5″]N[/su_dropcap]ot gonna lie: A few things in life straight-up give me the willies. Clowns. Black jelly beans. Kathie Lee Gifford. Now, I think we can safely add bug-eyed murder dolls to that list. Throughout this movie, Annabelle perches like a little porcelain monster, made for the sole purpose of crawling into our collective nightmares. Although there are a few moments when Annabelle Comes Home moves like motor oil, the filmmakers deliver just enough genuine ickiness to make this a decent, disposable little horror film.
As the latest installment in the Conjuring cinematic universe (the Conju-verse, maybe?), Annabelle Comes Home opens with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), two amiable suburbanites who dutifully combat and contain the forces of Hell. They take possession of the titular doll and deem it to be a conduit for demonic activity. The Warrens then stash the doll in their mega-creepy basement, which serves as a kind of Satanic junk drawer for evil knick knacks.
With that task done, Ed and Lorraine truck off for some more exorcising, and leave their preteen daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), a plucky young babysitter. Soon, Mary Ellen’s BFF Daniela (Katie Sarife) joins this Amityville slumber party, along with a squirrelly, guitar-plucking neighbor boy (Michael Cimino). Once our gang gets assembled, it’s just a matter of time before the Warrens’ horde of hell-trinkets comes alive to do some good old-fashioned killin’.
At this point, Annabelle Comes Home commits the common horror sin of presenting us with intelligent characters, only to have them lapse into profound stupidity, just to keep the plot moving. Daniela, in particular, seems way too sensible to ignore the obvious red flags and act as recklessly as she does. I mean, if a basement door has four locks on it, you gotta assume it’s for a reason. Ditto for the hell-doll in the trophy case. All the other characters brush off the onslaught of shudders and whispers and linger in this house of death, when they should be sprinting for a Motel 6. (They will, after all, leave a light on for ya.)
Despite this aggressive stretching of logic, this Annabelle succeeds more than it should. Director Gary Dauberman stages some truly creepy moments, featuring reanimated corpses with coins over their eyes, and shrieking corpse bride, and a snarling hellhound. Unfortunately, Dauberman also massages several silent scenes, drawing them out far longer than necessary. The theater fell quiet for long stretches, making it extremely difficult for me to fish the last few Skittles out of my bag without making a racket. Very inconvenient.
With Annabelle Comes Home, the jolting moments of terror make it worthwhile to slog through a few scenes of tedium. Good horror films should rattle your cage, and this one does a pretty good job of that. The actors don’t have a whole lot to do, but they manage to scream and pant with remarkable efficiency. One thing is certain: If I ever see a menacing psycho-doll locked in a glass case, I’ll now know it’s probably best to just let it be. And find a Motel 6.
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