Annabelle Needs to Get Off Her Ass

Illustration for article titled Annabelle Needs to Get Off Her Ass
Image: Warner Bros

Can you believe that the latest Annabelle movie, Annabelle Comes Home, is the third movie about that damn iron-deficient looking haunted doll with blunt bangs and a naughty sparkle in her eye? And that it’s the overall seventh in the goddamn Conjuring franchise? How did we end up here, and where are we headed? To hell, with crawling slowness and jump scares, it seems. But before we get there, I would like to briefly discuss Annabelle Comes Home with spoilers up front, as it’s been out for a few weeks, and having sat through it, I feel that I’ve earned the right to complain about it.


Nobody dies in Annabelle Comes Home.

Nobody dies in Annabelle Comes Home.


This certainly isn’t the first horror movie with a body count of zero—Poltergeist and The Babadook are two such films that are, in fact, widely considered classics of the genre. (Also, the original Conjuring movie doesn’t depict any human deaths, though the dog dies.) At least Poltergeist’s ultimate softness can be explained by its status as basically a Steven Spielberg movie while The Babadook’s titular monster is more a metaphor for the threat of familial breakdown. What’s Annabelle’s excuse?

She doesn’t have one!

She just sits there in a movie whose R rating is merely aspirational and not at all indicative of the overall mildness at hand. Annabelle is going to have to step her game up if she wants to compete with today’s spooky cinematic dolls. The new Chucky has Alexa-like app compatibility (in addition to stabbing you repeatedly, he can roast you via your thermostat and bang you up in your self-driving Uber), and the menacing ventriloquist dummies of Toy Story 4, the Bensons, don’t need a human hand up their butt to get them scurrying around. Annabelle is inanimate—a freaking inanimate doll character in a major movie release in 2019! She is just a conduit for various other vaguely intimidating spirits that also don’t kill people. How dull were these entities’ lives to create such inert afterlives?

The majority of Annabelle Comes Home takes place over the course of one night of babysitting, which may remind you of the original Halloween with one glaring fundamental difference (people died in Halloween). The Conjuring’s husband-and-wife spirit-sniffing team Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), here in glorified cameos, confiscate Annabelle, lock her up in a case in their room of parapsychological tchotchkes, and leave for the weekend to go bust some ghosts. Their daughter’s babysitter’s friend, who is equally nosy and mourning her dead father, lets Annabelle out of her case and tepid peril ensues. A typewriter types all by itself, one of those monkey dolls clangs its cymbals, gnarled hands reach out of the box of a Feeley Meeley board game. At one point, a werewolf made of mist shows up to howl some. It doesn’t kill anybody, either, which means it’s a perfect candidate for a future Conjuring spin-off. James Wan, who directed the original Conjuring and produces the franchise, said as much recently.


That’s just great. Another serving of nothing. And more and more and more, as the Conjuring movies spin their wheels fueled by jump scares and not much else. If ghosts don’t actually kill people, how scary are they? Isn’t it just a lot of wooing and booing for nothing? The threat of violence is the violence in Annabelle Comes Home, which makes the 100-minute experience as low stakes as it gets. The ghosts in question are mere nuisances. I left the theater feeling like I’d signed up to be annoyed.

Some Pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.



I’m mostly immune to jump scares at this point (soundtrack goes silent, 1... 2... 3... LOUD NOISE), but at least the first few Conjuring had a few that got me (e.g. the claps, even though it was already in the trailer, or the old man reflected in the TV). Now they’re just coasting. Even the Paranormal Activity series would at least have some new gimmick each time, like the camera on an oscillating fan, or the infrared from the Xbox Kinect. This is just lazy.

The Conjuring Cinematic Universe is not something the world needs.