Horror prequel 'Annabelle' possessed by cliches, but not suspense
"Annabelle Comes Home" -- ★
You know a horror movie's in trouble when the scariest thing in an evil-spirit-infested house turns out to be its garish, 1970s style wallpaper.
The teenagers in "Annabelle Comes Home" seem to be even dumber than the ones routinely carved up by masked slashers during the insane glut of maniac movies during the early 1980s.
Take Daniela Rios (Katie Sarife), a curious teen who ventures into a basement where famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (reprised by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) have locked up haunted and possessed objects, one of them being the demon-infected doll Annabelle, co-star of three previous horror films.
When Daniela can't get into the Warrens' locked room, she turns to leave and ... click! Click! Ca-ching!
The locks unlock by themselves and the door creaks open by itself.
Does she scream like a banshee and run for her life? Does she quietly run for her life?
Nope. She calmly goes into the haunted museum room because that's what any ordinary teen girl would do -- never.
The filmmakers behind "Annabelle Comes Home" exhibit so much contempt for audience intelligence that we could stop this movie review right here and have all the justification we needed for its lowly one-star rating.
But then we have the rest of this imagination-challenged, suspenseless exercise in regurgitated scare tactics purloined from other films.
How about the rocking chair that moves by itself? (I was on the set of 1979's "Amityville Horror" that used this stale chestnut, and saw a stagehand move the chair outside of camera range.)
Or how about a cheesy reflection that moves independently from the person in front of the mirror?
Or a shrieking person being pulled through the house by invisible hands? Or telegraphed jump scares?
The only shocking thing about this horror tale, flaccidly directed by Gary Dauberman (writer of "Annabelle," "Annabelle: Creation" and a silly "Conjuring" spinoff "The Nun") is that it possesses not a single original idea. Not one.
By the end, viewers will likely feel cheated when they realize that nothing really happened during the previous 106 minutes. Nobody dies. Nobody even gets hurt.
No wonder Wilson and Farmiga got out of this mess early by having their characters go on a trip, leaving behind their 10-year-old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) and her teen babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) to deal with Daniela and Annabelle's bogus journey into the supernatural.
"It's really not good for anyone to go in there," Judy says. She could be talking to filmgoers entering a theater to see her movie.
• • •
Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
Directed by: Gary Dauberman
Other: A New Line Cinema release. Rated R for violence. 106 minutes