The following is written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent Tony Farinella.
“Annabelle Comes Home” is the third film in the “Annabelle” franchise. I would rank it as the second best in the series. My order goes like this: “Annabelle: Creation,” “Annabelle Comes Home,” and “Annabelle.” When you throw “The Conjuring” universe into it, it can be a little bit more difficult to rank them. Because of this, I am going to keep it strictly to the “Annabelle” films when ranking them. “Annabelle: Creation” was a prequel, but this one is a sequel to the original “Annabelle” film. Ed and Lorraine Warren take the Annabelle doll home after the destruction she caused in the first film. They have a room where they keep all of the evil things locked away. However, Annabelle is so malevolent, a priest comes by the house twice a month to bless the doll.
When Ed and Lorraine Warren go away on business, they need someone to babysit their daughter Judy, played perfectly by Mckenna Grace. The terror and fear she expresses on her face and throughout the film is simply off the charts. Judy has a hard time making friends because people think her parents are strange and a little off-kilter because of their profession. They are Demonologists. If you are new to this franchise, Ed and Lorraine Warren are real. As a matter of fact, Lorraine recently passed away, unfortunately. They are played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, and since the two of them have been playing the couple for so long, their chemistry and timing is just about flawless.
Sadly, they only show up at the start of the film, and they don’t reappear until the end of it. When they are on screen, the film is really taken up a notch. There is good news, though, and it is those two terrific actresses Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife who play the babysitter, Mary Ellen, and her best friend Daniela. When you throw in Grace, you have three young leads who carry the movie throughout its running time. There is also a love interest named Bob (Michael Cimino) with great comedic timing and a running gag about his name. They are the ones stuck dealing with Annabelle when she gets released from her glass case.
Now, a lot of people have a problem with films which have jump scares. There are a few jump scares in this flick, but they are really built up by the suspense and pacing which is set by director Gary Dauberman. This is his first time behind the camera as a director, and he shows a sure hand in setting the mood. The set design is also terrific along with the costume design, as the 1970’s look is spot-on throughout the film. It is easy to see they spent a lot of time working on getting the little details right as it shows in the final product. Dauberman has also written “It: Chapter 2,” “Annabelle,” “Annabelle: Creation,” and he was one of the writers on the first “It” in 2017. He knows the horror genre, and he knows the “Annabelle” franchise. He also wrote this film based off a story he created with James Wan.
When all is said and done, this is an entertaining ride. It starts with the acting, first and foremost, as mentioned. If the young actors are not up to the task of showing terror and making the audience believe, the film is going to fail. It falls on their shoulders, as they are put in charge of leading the way when Wilson and Farmiga disappear for a good chunk of the film. They carry the movie on their shoulders, and they do not disappoint in the least. They raise the level of the film with their acting. Casting is so important in a film like this.
Also, Dauberman proves here he should be put in charge of more horror films as a writer and director. He knows how to use silence to his advantage, and he also truly cares about his characters as well. There is a reason why Annabelle returns. Without giving too much away, many times characters in horror films make poor decisions. When you find out why Annabelle is unleashed here, you understand it’s for an emotional reason which makes sense. It is not just a plot device to get her to be part of the film. I enjoyed myself a lot more than I thought I would with this third installment in this franchise.
* * * out of * * * *
Blu-Ray Info: “Annabelle Comes Home” is released on a two-disc Blu-Ray Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It also comes with a digital copy as well. The film has a running time of 106 minutes. It is rated R for horror violence and terror, although I felt as though it could have been PG-13 as the horror violence is rather tame.
Audio Info: The audio on the film is Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: French 5.1 (Dubbed in Quebec), and Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1. Subtitles are in English, Spanish, and French. The film sounds great, and the tension is built up perfectly by the eerie soundtrack without it banging you over the head.
Video Info: The video format is 1080p High Definition 16×9, 2.4:1. The picture is crystal clear, sharp, and very vivid. It looks great on Blu-Ray.
Behind the Scenes: The Ferryman/Demon (05:18), The Bloody Bride (02:57), and The Werewolf (03:07): These are characters which show up throughout the film. On this special feature, we get to meet the actors who portrayed them and see what they went through in order to get properly prepped with make-up, effects and costumes. It leaves the audience wondering if any of these characters will be turned into films, which is something the director hints at on these special features. Dauberman and Wan discuss what they were thinking when coming up with the characters together and how the behind-the-scenes team made them into a reality.
The Artifact Room and the Occult (05:07): This focuses on the infamous artifact room that is in the Warren’s house. They wanted to add some new artifacts they were not able to introduce in other films, according to Wan. There are some very cool pieces and Easter eggs they added to the room.
The Light and The Love (04:26): They talk about the love between Ed and Lorraine, which really is the heart and soul of the film. While the scares are great and the stories are terrifying, it is Ed and Lorraine who really stand out. These are two-dimensional human beings played by Wilson and Farmiga, and you can tell they have a lot of love for the real Ed and Lorraine Warren. The chemistry and connection they share on screen is hard to ignore. There is an element of fun which is really needed in these films without being too cheesy. They talk about how they love being able to play the scary scenes along with the family drama as well. It’s a good balance.
Seven Deleted Scenes (11:28): Seven deleted scenes are added here, including an alternate ending. I thought the running time of the film was just right, and the filmmakers hit all of the right notes. Most of the deleted scenes are just more time spent with the characters which is fine, but it is not really necessary in the big picture of the film. However, there is one particular scene where Mary Ellen opens up about a near-death experience that is very powerful and should have been used in the film. The alternate ending is nowhere near as good as the one in the film, so I’m glad they didn’t use it. The alternate ending is very clichéd and predictable.
Should You Buy It?
If you are a fan of “The Conjuring” universe or the “Annabelle” films, you will be happy to know they are still churning out quality movies with great performances and effective scares. If you take away “The Nun” and “The Curse of La Llorona,” you have three really good movies (“The Conjuring,” “The Conjuring 2” and “Annabelle: Creation”) and two good ones in (“Annabelle” and “Annabelle Comes Home”). I was close to putting “Annabelle Comes Home” in the really good category, but it just misses the mark. However, it is still a good film and one worth adding to your collection if you own the good movies. I own five out of the seven films. There are special features and an alternate ending, but I wish they had gone into more depth with the special features. A commentary track would have been great as well. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, which is always the case with Warner Brothers on their new release films. This is a day-one purchase for hardcore fans of the franchise or the universe, however you wish to describe it.