(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Annabelle Comes Home
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: This is sequel/prequel in The Conjuring Universe that finds that hideous doll Annabelle unleashing spooky havoc in the home of ghost hunters the Warrens. And to make matters worse, the Warrens aren’t home, leaving their young daughter and her babysitter (and babysitter’s friend) in ghostly peril.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: It’s spooky season, and a lot of us can’t go out and attend Halloween haunted houses right now. Most are closed, and even with precautions, it doesn’t feel safe to go to the haunts that are open. The good news is that if you’re craving that Halloween haunt fun you can get it in the safety of your own home with this film.
While the main Conjuring films have been strong, the spin-offs have been hit or miss, and mostly miss. The Annabelle series got off on the wrong foot with the first Annabelle film, which was kind of awful. The ship righted itself with Annabelle: Creation, and then got even better with Annabelle Comes Home. The plot is rather simple: all the scary stuff that the Warrens keep locked in their cursed room wakes up and starts scaring the hell out of the Warrens’ daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), her babysitter (Madison Iseman) and her babysitter’s bestie (Katie Sarife).
But writer-director Gary Dauberman is able to have a lot of fun with this straightforward premise, introducing one memorable specter after another: there’s a killer wedding dress; a haunted board game; a haunted TV; a haunted set of samurai armor; a ghost called the Ferryman who is also a serial killer; hell, there’s even a werewolf (the werewolf is also a ghost). While this onslaught of ghouls often feels like a bald-faced attempt at launching even more spin-offs (I’d happily watch a Ferryman movie, by the way), it’s also a lot of fun.
By throwing so many ghosts in one setting, Annabelle Comes Home never lets up. It’s one scene after another of the three female characters wandering into rooms and encountering scary stuff. This also gives the film serious Halloween haunt vibes. It’s as if you bought an overpriced ticket and are now moving through a very well-constructed haunt, and any moment some actor in scary make-up will burst out of the dark, screaming. Does it make for rather cheap scares? Sure. Is it fun, though? Absolutely.
And as a fun bonus, main Conjuring stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson show up as well for extended cameos. Farmiga and Wilson are pros at this, and the chemistry they have together works wonders. While the real Lorraine and Ed Warren were, to be blunt, full of shit, their movie counterparts are warm, caring people with a strong relationship. That relationship goes a long way towards elevating this material, and there’s also something sweet about Annabelle Comes Home‘s subplot involving Judy’s loneliness. She’s an outcast, both because her parents have recently been outed as ghost hunters and because she seems to possess the same psychic powers as her mother. Judy starts the film feeling like a freak but comes out the other side with a renewed sense of purpose.
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