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Movie Review

Ed and Lorraine Warren know evil when they see it. Well, when Lorraine sees it, anyway. Lorraine's heightened sensitivities to the spiritual world mean that she sees dark spiritual things just about every day.

It doesn't make for an easy life.

In spite of that—or more accurately, because of it—Lorraine and her husband have dedicated their lives to containing and stomping out the dark spiritual things of this world. And no matter how far they have to go or what they must do in the process, they keep pushing forward.

When Lorraine and Ed encounter particularly vile artifacts—such as the infamously wicked doll known as Annabelle—there's only one course of action: They must take those artifacts home. Now, that might seem like exactly the opposite thing you'd want to do in the face of evil. But Lorraine and Ed know that truly foul items can only be reined in when locked away and sealed with a priest's regular holy blessing.

Annabelle, for instance, is believed to be possessed by some demonic evil. But Lorraine realizes that the truth of the matter is far worse. Demons only possess people, not objects. No, Annabelle is something closer to a beacon, a magnet. For whatever reason, the doll draws evil to itself. In fact, Annabelle summons some of the most corrupt spiritual entities and unleashes these destructive forces on any nearby innocent.

Annabelle is so powerful that the Warrens must have the doll sprinkled with holy water, prayed over, blessed and then locked in a sacred glass box sealed with a talisman. Only then will the doll's unholy powers—and the demons she draws—be kept at bay. Then the room of artifacts itself must be triple locked against any possible breach. It's a strategy designed to keep everyone safe and sound.

The problem is, Ed and Lorraine aren't always home to keep watch over the dangerous artifacts they collect. Sure, the Warrens trust their 10-year-old daughter Judy without question. And the young woman who looks after Judy is trustworthy, too.

But evil has its ways. Yes, it has ways of deceiving and manipulating. And sometimes people can't see what's right in front of their eyes.

Which is a nasty problem indeed when you're dealing with something as evil as Annabelle.

Positive Elements

In the face of rather foolish choices that unleash a great deal of demonic havoc, some people go to great lengths to help others. For instance, Judy's babysitter, Mary Ellen, is a conscientious high schooler who risks her life repeatedly to protect her young charge. Mary Ellen's friend, Daniella, isn't quite so thoughtful or honest, but she goes out of her way to help young Judy too. And a neighbor boy named Bob also charges in to help the girls when it would have been far easier for him to just run away.

Spiritual Content

Ed and Lorraine advertise themselves as "Consultants of Demonology and Witchcraft." We see a newspaper article discussing an exorcism they performed. They describe their collected artifacts as items that are either cursed or that have been used in dark rituals. And those objects run the gamut from creepy toys and bloody articles of clothing, to books of satanic writings, old TV tubes and coins removed from the eyes of the dead.

We see a Catholic priest chanting archaic prayers over, and sprinkling holy water on, these cursed items—in particular the Annabelle doll. While transporting the doll in their car, the Warrens are accosted by several evil spirits that are drawn to it. In fact, when the doll is first brought into the room of artifacts, we see those items shifting as they're drawn to its beacon-like "power." Eventually the Warrens place the doll in a box constructed from the glass of a consecrated chapel. The door is locked and sealed by a talisman card featuring the image of a demonic creature.

We're shown some of the Warrens' files on their past cases involving various dark entities, and we watch a film of Ed brandishing a cross and yelling commands at a dark "spirit and all your minions." Later, this film is turned on again; and a possessed individual, who's caught in its projected beams, begins to hiss and smoke where the image of the cross illuminates its flesh.

That said, there isn't much talk about God's role in these encounters, despite the fact that the Warrens have crosses hanging all over their home. Judy even pulls one large crucifix off her bedroom wall and carries it in her backpack for safety. During a spiritual attack, she holds the cross up and mumbles a prayer under her breath, holding the entity at bay. We hear the Lord's Prayer recited as well.

It's apparent that young Judy is developing some of the same spirit sensitivities that her mother possesses. She sees a number of spiritual entities, including a dead priest who hangs around her school. Later, this unspeaking spirit leads her toward a source of help. Thus, the movie suggests that there are good and bad spirits just as there are good and bad people. Lorraine later confirms that idea when she reports messages from one of those benevolent spirits.

Mary Ellen's friend Daniella manipulates her way into the locked artifacts room in the hope of accessing the power of various objects; she also wants to communicate with the spirit of her deceased father. In the course of her explorations, she touches nearly everything in the room and unlocks the case holding Annabelle. She spots a picture of Jesus, and she turns the portrait face down, saying, "Please, don't judge me." Daniella eventually makes contact with a spirit that she believes to be her father, but that entity transforms into a demonic creature.

Objects move on their own. Creepy spirits leap out of the shadows. We're told that Annabelle wants to claim a human soul. A horned demon pins a young woman up against a wall. Spirits of the dead abound. A spiritual creature vomits ectoplasm into someone's open mouth.

Sexual Content

Daniella whispers to Mary Ellen that Bob has a crush on her and winks at the potential sexual meaning of Bob's nickname at school. Several people repeat this nickname (that involves a reference to a body part).

Violent Content

Vicious spiritual attacks from a variety of screaming and heavy-hitting spiritual entities toss, drag, pummel and pin down Judy and her three teenage protectors. In one case, a spiritual attack incites Daniella to believe that she has been stabbed in the abdomen with a knife (though the attack is revealed to be an illusion).

Spiritual foes and attackers include a slavering werewolf, a gore-covered ghost bride wielding a cleaver, a possessed suit of samurai armor, a spiritual ferryman who's charged with dragging souls off to Hell and a horned demon. When encountering the possessed Japanese armor, victims also hear the sounds of a young woman being tortured and crying in anguish.

We see pictures of a mutilated horse with its eyes ripped out. And while looking into a spiritual device that projects the near future, Daniella sees herself bloody and torn after an attack.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and about a half dozen or so s-words join a couple misuses of God's name.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

Daniella lies repeatedly to obtain access to the Warrens' room of artifacts.

Conclusion

Over the course of eight movies in the last five years, the Conjuring horror franchise has created a collection of lightly related tales that all intersect in the same cinematic universe Each creep-show entry has some tendril connection to spiritualists Ed and Lorraine Warren and their encounters with ghostly things—including, of course, a "haunted" porcelain dolly named Annabelle.

After that many trips to the phantasmal well, however, the ectoplasm is bound to start running a bit thin. I mean, we can only experience so many screeching fiends and shadow-gliding ghoulies before a certain been-there-screamed-at-that ennui sets in. So how do the filmmakers strive to keep this latest exploration of dead things … fresh?

The Annabelle Comes Home crew has approached that challenge by taking a slightly different tack away from the typical horror-fare formula. Rather than bang their heads bloody against yet another tale of historical haunting, they pretty much went story-free this time. They simply gathered all the spirit devices, cursed toys and hexed artifacts they could dream up into one room and … threw the door open.

Let Annabelle and her fellow atrocities, uh, creep out as they will.

The resulting pic is a nonstop stream of never-ceasing jump scenes. But these onrushing scares aren't logically or sensibly related in any way. They just are. It's a 106 minute ghost-in-your-face, don't-look-behind-you, "best of" collection, if you will. If one screechy bit doesn't frighten you, then maybe the next one will.

Some will say that this scare-fest is designed to be a cautionary tale. But aren't all horror movies, at least in some sense, one of the few cinematic places where we can spot declarations of spiritual good and evil? And don't they all wave red flags about tiptoeing into the spiritual presence of the dead?

Annabelle movies, in particular have been those kinds of films: Movies that speak of the value of faith and the threat of the demonic. And if you squint just right, you might be able to convince yourself that this pic, too, is sounding that same spiritual alarm.

But … not really.

The movie belies that idea by its final chapter. It colors things in shades of good and evil, but belief in God or anything truly godly isn't one of the crayon choices. And by its closing moments, the film even suggests that communing with some spirits of the dead might just be A-OK.

If anything, this latest Conjuring-universe flick ultimately undermines its representation of evil by playing it off as a high-energy carnival ride with scary plunges in route to a happily-ever-after ending. And that sort of nonchalant spiritual takeaway is the scariest thing in this mix.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Horror

Author

Cast

Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren; Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren; Mckenna Grace as Judy Warren; Madison Iseman as Mary Ellen; Katie Sarife as Daniella; Michael Cimino as Bob

Director

Gary Dauberman ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

June 26, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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