by Rob DiCristino
Imagine a pleasant suburban home. It’s just before dark, midsummer. Imagine a young woman sitting on the couch. Blonde, probably, but it’s up to you. She’s reading a book or staring passively at the television. Suddenly, she hears a noise. A bump. A creak. She ignores it at first, but her curiosity soon gets the best of her. She rises and creeps slowly across the room, down a narrow hallway and toward a locked door. She’s uneasy. The bump becomes a bang. The creek becomes a screech. She’s terrified, but she has to know what’s making that sound. It’s too late to turn back. She can feel her heart beating through her chest, and the space between every step feels like a lifetime. It’s torturous. Time seems to stretch, to even stop entirely. We hold our breath as she reaches out toward the door at the end of the hall. Her fingers wrap around the door knob, turn it, and push it forward. She moves slowly into the darkened room. The door closes behind her. We wait.
Now imagine this, over and over again, for one hundred and six minutes.
It: Chapter One), it picks up around the time of the original Conjuring movie, when Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) first take possession of the demonic doll. The supernatural investigators determine that, while not technically “haunted,” Annabelle is a conduit for supernatural events; spirits and specters are drawn to her presence. They lock her behind consecrated glass, warning their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) never to disturb her. But, because things need to happen in movies, the Warrens leave Judy in the overnight care of teens Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and Daniela (Katie Sarife), the latter of whom is fascinated by the Warrens’ reputation as speakers for the dead. You can see where this is going.
And going and going and going. After faking us out with a Warren-centric prologue (the couple return for the end, but those hoping for a secret Conjuring prequel will be disappointed), Annabelle Comes Home follows the young ladies as they pass a long evening in their haunted house. Judy’s supernatural sensitivity alienates her from school peers, so she’s eager for the older girls’ attention. Mary Ellen, bright and outgoing, bakes cakes and flirts with the sheepish Bob (Michael Cimino). Bad Influence Daniela digs furtively through the Warren’s case files in search of a solution to a mysterious problem. These three plotlines rarely intersect and, at times, seem to occur in completely different movies. Each character has multiple opportunities to hear a noise, react to it, creep slowly toward it, and be jump-scared by it. The action never escalates, the narrative never tries to congeal into anything coherent, and the same horror beats repeat so many times that it almost becomes hilarious.