With the launch of 2008’s Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. As the universe grew wider and wider for the Marvel heroes, so did its’ popularity. With 2012’s The Avengers, Marvel proved that it could basically create its’ own billion-dollar movies with its’ heroes. In return, other film studios started to look at Marvel and think we could do that too. Universal attempted a shared universe with the launch of their Dark Universe. Starting with The Mummy, they aimed to reinvent their iconic monsters but sadly fell short of expectations. Sony tried their hand at it as well with The Amazing Spider-Man movies. On the heels of the second film into the franchise, they had announced plans for numerous movies. The second Amazing was so poorly received that Marvel opted to a soft reboot and character split with the MCU. Not to mention, DC’s hand at the shared universe that has now been abandoned to focus on storytelling.
Perhaps, the only true competitor the MCU could have is The Conjuring Universe. To date, the franchise is equipped with seven films, including the one you are reading a review for right now, and boasts over 800 million dollars worldwide. For the most part, the films have also been fairly well received among critics. Which brings us to the latest entry into the franchise – Annabelle Comes Home. This homecoming serves as the 7th film with the franchise but also the tail end of the Annabelle trilogy. The film tells the story of Judy Warren, played by McKenna Grace, and her babysitter Mary Ellen, played by Madison Iseman. The two are interrupted by Mary’s friend, Daniela, played by Katie Sarife, who is on the hunt for the weird and creepy collection of the Warrens. When found unleashes the forces of hell, literally.
At its’ core, Annabelle is led by Grace, Iseman and Sarife. All three actresses showcase tremendous depth and strength. Perhaps, the one who steals the show is Sarife. Her character falls into just about every trope of the genre upon our first encounter with the character. It’s her first aside that brings unexpected depth and heart to the film. During the transformation of trope collector to layer of depth for the film, her character is completely humanized and made sympathetic. The narrative choices with her character alone are worth the watch. It’s in Sarife’s delivery that really delivers the powerful impact of the arc. Grace equally delivers a stunning performance as the daughter of the Warrens.
Annabelle opens up the universe wide though. In some ways, its’ a beautiful statement to make about the Warrens, the careers of which the films are based upon. It brings more depth to their careers past The Nun and Annabelle. The build-up to and delivery of the horror within this film are utter brilliance. Thanks in large part to Sarife, once again. The filmmakers manage to take audiences on an insane ride from start to finish without ever rushing or suffocating the story. However, while it is one of the strongest parts of the film, it’s also a bit of the weakest portions. The film leaves a bit to be destined. With universe additions like The Ferry Man, the Violent Bride, the Psyshic TV, the hellhound & more – Annabelle can feel a bit overwhelming at times. Unlike its’ predecessors, we’ve never reached the point of why we should fear these entities – we’re just expected to. In some ways, Annabelle’s arrival feels a bit too early for audiences and in that way, it also lacks the impact of some of the franchise’s previous entries.
Overall, Annabelle Comes Home, is another strong addition to The Conjuring Universe. Thanks in part to strong performances from Katie Sarife & McKenna Grace – the duo manage to bring a surprisingly layer of depth and heart to the film. The heart of the film helps it to boldly stand out within the genre. Heart aside, though, the film ultimately leaves a bit to be destined. The movie can feel a bit crowded at times and a bit less impactful than viewers may be wanting. Still it serves as a fantastic close to the Annabelle trilogy.
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