CHICAGO – There is such an unnerving quality to older dolls, which is why they lend themselves so perfectly to horror stories. There’s just an unsettling feeling when looking at their static expression, usually plastered with a permanent smile that gives me terrible flashbacks to when I worked retail. Oddly enough, “Annabelle Comes Home” similarly elicits familiar feelings of terror but channels it through an 80’s horror homage.
We’ve strayed far enough from the ground zero franchise, “The Conjuring”, to forget where it all even began. I can gladly say that it doesn’t matter how we were introduced to Annabelle, the plucky, demon-possessed doll that fuels our nightmares because we’re at a point where this side-franchise has been pardoned of its past sins. What started out as a prequel spin-off (“Annabelle”), which then got a much superior prequel of its own (“Annabelle: Creation”), has finally had a homecoming as it partially rejoins the original “The Conjuring” timeline by focusing on the Warren family; namely on the daughter Judy Warren (Mckenna Grace).
Don’t worry, we still get to spend some time with Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson), but they’re really more like bookends to the story rather than the main plot characters. I will answer the burning question that is probably haunting your mind at this moment. The answer is no, we don’t get Patrick Wilson playing another cover of an Elvis song, but he does sing a little and play a little guitar, separately. Despite the lack of Patrick’s Presley performances, “Annabelle Comes Home” still has a great deal more to offer that we initially thought, proving to us that this doll franchise still has life in her yet.
Gary Dauberman, with the help of horror hotshot James Wan, continues on as writer of the “Annabelle” franchise. Following his last “Annabelle” run, he’s reached career highs (with “IT”), and a devastating dip (with “The Nun”). We find Dauberman having found the right compromise between the two by keeping it a period piece and having our main protagonists be adolescents. By having this take place in the 80s, and using a pre-teen/teenage perspective, he is able to imbue the film with horror/comedy elements that fit well within that decade and serve as a nostalgic throwback for us. At times it feels more “The Monster Squad” than “Fright Night”, but luckily never goes full-on “Scooby-Doo” even though it does come pretty close.
“Annabelle Comes Home” opens everywhere on June 26th. Featuring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Daniela Rios, and Michael Cimino. Directed by Gary Dauberman. Written by Gary Dauberman and James Wan. Rated “R”
Photo credit: Warner Bros.