Conjuring: The Greatest Hits!
The Conjuring universe, based on the paranormal investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren and has admittedly lacked consistency of quality. The greatest inconsistency is the Annabelle series, which spun off from the first Conjuring film in 2013. The first Annabelle, released in 2014, had success at box office, but not so much with critics, as it received negative reviews. Three years later, the spinoff was followed by a prequel, Annabelle: Creation, directed by Lights Out director, David F. Sandberg. This film, while not as good as the first Conjuring, was a major improvement over the first Annabelle. Now, the doll haunts the silver screen again, this time directed by Gary Dauberman, who had written all three of the Annabelle films.
The story takes place 3 years after the events of the first Annabelle. Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) obtain the titular doll, which serves as a beacon for spirits. They bring it back to their home and store it in their basement amongst artifacts from their previous cases. Flash forward to one year later when we see the Warrens go off on another case, leaving their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) with her babysitter, Mary (Madison Iseman), as well as Mary’s best friend, Daniella (Katie Sarife). When Daniela goes snooping around in the Warren’s basement, she accidentally opens the glass case containing Annabelle, unleashing some dark spirits upon the house. With Ed and Lorraine out of the house, it is now up to the Judy, Mary and Daniela to seal the doll back in its container before the spirits within it wreak havoc.
While watching this film, one could tell that this is Dauberman’s directorial debut, because most of it feels like a basic “adventures while babysitting” story with standard filmmaking techniques, including shaky camerawork and dry ice-covered graveyard scenes. In addition, the situations that the characters find themselves in feel played out (including a cringe-inducing moment in a supermarket), and the plot itself feels more episodic than a necessary chapter in the Conjuring universe. The acting even feels off, with some scenes appearing to be done in only one take. The actors are decent, but they are not given that much characterization to build on, and most of their dialogue is clumsily written exposition. The only standout is McKenna Grace, who has really grown as an actress since Gifted. Those who were hoping for more scenes with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are going to be slightly disappointed, because their scenes merely bookend the film.
However, there are a few moments where Dauberman appeared ambitious. First, I have to credit him with a minimal number of jump scares in the first half of the film. There are a few, but most of the scenes just play out naturally and allow the audience members, as well as the film’s characters, to breathe and take in the dark and mysterious atmosphere. It would be dishonest to say that this worked out flawlessly, but in an age where horror movies rely heavily on jump scares, the effort is appreciated. In addition, there are a few interesting camera shots in the mix, including a hallway scene shot from the floor up, and a 360 shot of a spirit circling a room while turning crosses upside down, which you may have remembered being done in The Conjuring 2. That being said, the second half of the film suffers from the same problem that has plagued the Conjuring universe: the overuse of jump scares.
As entertaining as the films in the series are, their use of jump scares is so predictable, that they are not as effective as they once were. Despite the basic camerawork, sub-standard acting, and overuse of jump scares, Annabelle Comes Home manages to be entertaining, but new life needs to come into the series if they are looking to make more entries. In regards to the Annabelle series, Annabelle Come Home it is better than the first one, but not as good as Annabelle: Creation. In regards to doll movies released this year, this is miles ahead of the Child’s Play remake, because this film at least takes itself seriously as a horror film. As for the Conjuring universe, it needs something new and daring. I mean, what is next? Annabelle 4: Annabelle May Need Glasses?