‘Conjuring’ series somehow keeps getting even worse

Light and color are so absent in Annabelle Comes Home that it is made into a gimmick in the one scene where it’s present. That’s how bankrupt this movie is, this fundamental aspect of filmmaking is relegated to “that one scene where we did colors.” Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

1/10 I’ve seen some truly regrettable films over the past decade, but Annabelle Comes Home is the first time I’ve ever honestly wanted my money back.

After a scene explaining the doll’s possession that’s been repeated three or four times across different releases, known charlatans Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) bring the Annabelle doll home and secure it in their haunted vault, then ditch the movie so Warner Bros. won’t have to pay them too much. Their daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and Ellen’s bratty friend Daniela Rios (Katie Sarife) are left alone with all the haunted antiques, and Rios insists on going and fooling around with them like the entitled, snotty runt she is. The trio of inexpensive actors must face the Warrens’ entire backlog of spooky haunted objects, which apparently consists of just three or four ghouls that, between the group of them, apparently pose no tangible danger to a group of teenage girls.

In a procession of crimes against photography and storytelling, The Conjuring franchise somehow continues to get successively cheaper, thinner and worse.

I’m serious – you will specifically regret spending money on Annabelle Comes Home. It is a sham. It is a ripoff. Every frame is an excruciating reminder of how cheap it is.

The plot plays out like a series of announcements to the audience of costs that have been cut. First, you realize that the Warrens are kept to a minimum to minimize the paycheck owed to Wilson and Farmiga. Then you realize that, despite the expansive premise of the Warrens’ entire box of horrors being unleashed, Annabelle Comes Home will take place over the course of a single night in a single location. Then you realize nobody hired a lighting crew.

This scene, in which Rios’ reflection in the haunted television predicts her future actions, stands out as by far the most memorable gag in Annabelle Comes Home, but it is a completely typical example of how much is visible in an average scene.

The basic satisfaction these movies are supposed to provide is haunted house jump-scares, but it’s tough to be afraid of haunted house monsters that you can’t see jumping out at you. That’s problem number one for Annabelle Comes Home – you can’t see a thing. The color palette for this movie is mud grey on black. It is so dark that for a significant chunk of runtime you may as well be staring at a blank screen.

It doesn’t look lit. It doesn’t just look dark, it looks like there was no lighting crew present. The lighting is so poor that you can often see the digital noise as the camera strains to capture what little is there. Even what you can see is bad, sometimes to the point of hilarity – in particular, there’s a werewolf ghost character that looks like it belongs on an early ‘90s screensaver. If you can look past all of Annabelle Comes Home’s visual deficiencies, which might be physically impossible, jumps themselves are remarkably rare.

There’s a pitfall of creativity inherent in the premise – this is the third movie now spun from nothing more than a mildly creepy doll design – but as Annabelle Comes Home wears on, I get the sense that not only was the movie designed around minimizing its star actors, locations and personnel costs, it seems to be shot around minimizing the amount of scenes that need to be written.

This 106 minute movie is glacial. The only thing these actors do well is walk absolutely as slowly as possible. Scenes aren’t just stretched, they’re spaghettified, as if by the black hole of creativity at this movie’s motionless heart, to the point that Lord of the Rings would feel brisk by comparison.

Do not go see Annabelle Comes Home. Do not. It’s not bad in a funny way, it’s bad in an “I came to see a movie and was unable to” way. These Conjuring movies aren’t going anywhere – they’re all too cheap to fail – but if this series’ kind of imagination-bankrupt spooks really is your thing, wait for an edition that actually hits even that low of a bar.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate. If you liked this post, you can donate to Reel Entropy here. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook and reach out to me at reelentropy@gmail.com.

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