Annabelle Comes Home (2019) Review

Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

Directed by Gary Dauberman

Story by James Wan & Gary Dauberman

Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
While babysitting the daughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a teenager and her friend unknowingly awaken an evil spirit trapped in a doll.

My Opinion:

I’m not sure why but I’ve watched all the Conjuring Universe movies. I thought the first Conjuring film was very good but the rest of the films have mostly been rubbish. The Annabelle movies have been the worst and I hated the second film. Well, I’m happy to say that I think Annabelle Comes Home is at least far better than the first two Annabelle films. I still didn’t love it but actually did quite enjoy it. And I’m in a rare good mood so I’m going to give it a decent rating. Here’s my Conjuring Universe movie rankings & links to my other reviews:

The Conjuring – 7.5/10
Annabelle Comes Home – 6.5/10
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case – 6/10
The Nun – 5.5/10
Annabelle – 5/10
Annabelle: Creation – 4.5/10

I was kind of tough on The Nun. It wasn’t that bad. And The Conjuring 2 is probably much better than Annabelle Comes Home but I just can’t remember much of that one at this point…

I’m not sure if people are liking this movie or not but it’s certainly the “least evil” of the Annabelle movies, which may not please Conjuring Universe fans. I believe all these movies are probably rated 15 in the UK but was curious what the American rating was for this one so I looked it up. It was far more tame than the others so I’m surprised it’s still rated R?? It really feels like a PG-13 film, which I know not all horror fans appreciate but I have no problem with. Hell, the movie almost gave me more of a Goosebumps feel (not helped by the fact that the babysitter in this was in Goosebumps 2).

I think that’s why I had fun with this one, though. I liked that the focus was on a couple of teenage girls babysitting a younger girl (played by Mckenna Grace). I also liked the predictable but simple story. Slight spoiler but the doll awakens various evil spirits which terrorize each girl in a way that also reminded me of the plot in the first Goosebumps film (I admit it – I liked the Goosebumps movie). Most importantly, though, the three girls are likeable. Too many cheesy horror movies have hateful characters, which I never understand. I want to like the characters if I’m going to care about their fate.


For fans of Ed & Lorraine Warren, I’m sorry to say that they’re barely in this. That’s a shame but they’ve had bigger roles in some of the other films so I was okay with them being in this one less. I do find it fascinating that these stories are (loosely) based on their real life paranormal investigations. I didn’t realize that the Amityville haunting was one of their cases as well. I love that paranormal shit! I know these movies are massively exaggerated, of course, but supernatural horror is my favorite type and I usually enjoy even the many bad movies in this genre. Annabelle Comes Home isn’t bad, though. It’s fine but it’s not exactly going to blow anyone away and it doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before (although the bit with the old television set was fairly inventive). I also liked that they included a nod to the real-life Annabelle doll, which was a far less freaky-looking Raggedy Ann doll.

Speaking of creepy dolls, I’ve always been a fan of scary doll movies. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Annabelle movies are the best in this sub genre and Annabelle herself doesn’t have much to do in these films. I realize it’s better than movies where you’re actually seeing the dolls walking around & stuff as that’s super cheesy… Anyway, I of course made a list of My Top Ten Creepy Dolls In Movies & Television. I’ll forever be haunted by an old Alfred Hitchcock creepy doll episode…

My Rating: 6.5/10

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The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case (2016) Review

The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case (2016)

Directed by James Wan

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This is the sequel to the 2013 film The Conjuring, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their roles as paranormal investigators and authors Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film follows the Warrens as they travel to the United Kingdom to assist the Hodgson family, who are experiencing poltergeist activity at their Enfield council house in 1977.

My Opinion:

I thought The Conjuring (number 1) was really good as far as modern horror movies go. I gave it a very positive review (HERE). Thinking back on it now, I’d still say it was a really good modern horror but I probably rated it a little too highly. I think at the time that I was just SO happy to finally get a horror movie that didn’t totally suck since most of them do nowadays. But then The Babadook came along…. Now there’s a damn good modern horror! That one made me realize that it is indeed possible for post-1984 horror movies to actually not suck. The Conjuring (number 1) was a step in the right direction, however. Too bad The Conjuring (number 2) takes a step back.

First of all, I know nothing about the actual facts of the Enfield haunting case so I won’t be discussing how accurate this movie may or may not be. I do love a good haunting and/or possession movie (especially when “true”) so I did enjoy the overall story here. It’s very similar to the first film (storywise) so I think you’d probably be interested in at least checking this one out at home at some point if you really liked the first one.

However, this one fails in many ways that the first movie didn’t… This sequel falls back into the James Wan trap of showing us too much for too long, just like all the laughable shit in Insidious. Sorry, but a Marilyn Manson-looking nun just isn’t scary to me! Sorry for a slight spoiler there (there’s a nun in this who looks like Marilyn Manson and you see her a lot). No. Less is more, horror-movie-makers! Why do you keep doing this? Mystery is scary. The things we don’t see or only just glimpse are scary. That bit with the sheet in the wind in the first film was pretty scary and unexpected! I can’t say that I really found anything even a little unsettling in this one. This was one of those movies where I just steeled myself for the predictable jump scares. Because I’m a jumpy person! But jump scares are cheap & they’re temporary. I think I’d probably have been more creeped out if I had just read about the real case instead (I may look into it now).

This film also didn’t seem to try as hard to get the right look, which worked so well in the first movie. It felt like it was genuinely set in the Seventies before whereas the sequel felt more like, well, a movie made in 2016 with funny clothing. I don’t know if maybe the first movie was filmed in a different way that gave it the correct look? I know nothing about filmmaking – I just know that the first movie looked “right” to me. And it had a great atmosphere that this one doesn’t quite manage (again, this is mainly down to “seeing too much”).

Okay – I’m sounding way too negative! This film isn’t awful – it’s just disappointing after the first film. I just wanted more of the same again instead of it veering slightly into Insidious territory. But it’s certainly not as bad as Insidious or that pathetic Conjuring spin-off Annabelle. It does start out promising with your standard haunted house movie stuff that is predictable but that I like (scary noises, creepy toys, etc) and I have no complaints as far as the acting goes – everyone did a solid job, including the young actress (Madison Wolfe). Unfortunately, the actors were let down by some very schmaltzy moments and a final half that loses its way just like so many other modern horror films seem to. The Conjuring 2 isn’t a bad horror movie – it’s just yet another fairly forgettable one. Which is a shame as I didn’t feel that way about the first film. 

My Rating: 6/10

The Departed (2006) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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To kick off the IMDB Top 250 guest reviews, we have the lovely Zoe from The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger. Zoe writes fantastic movie & book reviews and top ten lists (and guest top ten lists, should you wish to join in on the fun). She’s super cool & friendly and Leonardo DiCaprio’s number one fan. She also reads LOTS of books & and is way smarter than me so you really need to check her site out if you haven’t already. 🙂

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE.

Now over to Zoe & her thoughts on The Departed, IMDB Rank 50 out of 250

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I got really gung ho involved with Table 9 Mutant’s IMDB Top 250 list. I got excited and I basically took a whole bunch, filling my arms. But whatever, moving along, they are great movies that need to be honoured. I thought that The Departed is one of those films. I have an obsession with this movie. I love it. I really, really do, and I revisit it often. I know dear old Mutant is not the hugest Scorsese fan, but I love the man and was going to explore this, no two ways about it. Oki, I’m going to stop rambling now, and get down to it.

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“We have a question: Do you want to be a cop, or do you want to appear to be a cop? It’s an honest question.”
– Oliver Queenan

Plot Synopsis: An undercover state cop who has infiltrated an Irish gang and a mole in the police force working for the same mob race to track down and identify each other before being exposed to the enemy, after both sides realize their outfit has a rat. (IMDB)

Now, for me I really enjoyed the story, it was sharp and tight and very well written, and had a stellar cast to carry the story as well as a phenomenal director to helm it. Leonardo DiCaprio (yep, here I go again) is just amazing. He nailed the role of Billy Costigan, truly amazing work from him yet again, I expected no less. Coming up from nowhere, working his backside off to get into the police force and being shot down was a painful thing, but when Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) offer him the chance to go undercover for them, to take down a big Irish crime lord, he takes it, not thinking twice. What I loved is how he went in, incredibly optimistic, a chance to prove himself, be more than was expected. Instead he ended up running scared, trying so hard to outsmart everyone and keep his real life separate from the undercover life that was designed for him, and struggling to distance himself as well as accept all the cruel and nasty things that he saw.

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“I’m gonna need the identity of your undercovers.” – Colin Sullivan

Jack Nicholson delivered quite the performance here. As Frank Costello, the Irish mob boss whose gang Costigan has wormed his way into, you can see exactly why he is being hunted. He is sharp as a tack, he is ruthless and psychopathic, calm and cool all the time, not much ruffling him. Never mind the mole snooping around his little unit, he as one up on the police: he has his very own mole really high up in their department. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has been working with Costello since he was a child, and is treated like the son. The two have a very solid relationship with each other, and work really well together. They rely on each other and they understand each other. Costello has his organisation so tightly wrapped up that even Sullivan is a very well hidden secret from within. Things are going fine up until the point that Costigan gets in. It dawns on the police as well as Costello at roughly the same time that someone is leaking information from the inside. This was really great for me, seeing how things started to heat up. The movie never dragged, and even though it took a while for both sides to make the realisation, it was a fantastic one to arrive at.

The camera work was amazing, and keeps bringing new things to the table, keeping it all fresh. The cast works so well together. On one hand you are rooting for the good guys, and the other you want to see the bad ones succeed. Again, this is an example of fine filmmaking for me, though ultimately your loyalty lay with Costigan and his shattered life due to his cover story, his one “big” opportunity that he was granted. Dignam proved to be an exceptionally angry character, though it was grand watching Wahlberg and DiCaprio together, and Sheen regulating them all the time. The score was great; it worked so well with this film, and the whole Irish theme. Vera Farmiga had her psychiatrist role as Madolyn, seeing police who have fired their weapons in line of duty. A meeting with Sullivan in the elevator and all his cocky confidence start their relationship, and all seems to be going well. Naturally, as all paths are crossing in this movie, she meets Costigan, and the two enter into an unknown thing together, which soon break the practitioner/patient boundaries and escalates into an affair. Costigan is hanging onto her like some kind of lifeline, and it is crazy to watch how her perfect relationship with Sullivan crumples when he starts to hide things about her, stripping her of her character, basically. He is a control freak, and everything has to be just so.

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“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” – Frank Costello

The movie pacing is great. It is a long film but never (for me) actually feels that way, which is just awesome. It starts off, sets the tone, introduces the characters, and works with them all a little bit so that we have some background understanding, making all the events that unfold into something more than just a quick smack dab crime flick. As the movie progresses, you witness the cracks that start to show in the characters, the perfectly uneventful lives suddenly have issues that they have never dealt with before. Everything slowly starts unravelling, and soon gains momentum, spinning out of control but never losing the audience or sight of what is going down. Costello’s cockiness is slowly but surely falling away, and he is devolving into something more brutal and his anger is barely kept in check. Nicholson, of course, played that down to a tee. From the relaxed but scary Irish gang leader before, he refuses to relinquish his power, and everyone that stands before him will pay. Sullivan is doing what he can to protect himself as well as Costello, and is desperate to wheedle out the rat that has upset the perfect balance.

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“I can’t wait to wipe that fucking smirk right off of your face.” – Dignam

All in all The Departed earns a 9/10 for me. A simply stunning piece of cinema, it was astounding to watch and never ceases to provide the height of entertainment that I am looking for, supported by a outstanding cast, great score and story, and stellar directing, this was destined to be a goodie. It is deserving of all praise, and you are sure that whenever DiCaprio and Scorsese come together, something beautiful will come from it!

The Conjuring (2013) Review

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The Conjuring

Directed by James Wan

Starring:
Vera Farmiga
Patrick Wilson
Ron Livingston
Lili Taylor

Running time: 112 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

This “based on a true story” movie follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they investigate mysterious supernatural occurrences at the home of the Perron family (parents played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor).

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My Opinion:

I really enjoyed this film. I rarely watch horror movies anymore as they seem to have turned into nothing but the torture porn variety that I can’t stand. Give me either a good old fashioned 70s & 80s slasher with cheesy special effects I can actually handle or a creepy old-school supernatural thriller. The Conjuring, I’m happy to say, comes pretty close to feeling like a genuine 70s supernatural thriller.

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The Conjuring opens with the Warrens showing us a previous case they worked on where a doll had become possessed. Dolls freak me out. Dolls freak a lot of people out and the makers of The Conjuring clearly know this. They take as many horror movie cliches as they can and throw them all at us. But all horror movies do this anyway. The Conjuring at least manages to use every trick in the book in a few fairly original & effective ways. (To be honest, the doll was too over-the-top freaky. The music box was more subtle & far creepier… )

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The Conjuring takes place in the 70s, which helps add to the overall creepiness. I’m a sucker for 70s films so that will have helped my enjoyment of this.The clothes! The cars! The 70s were so groovy! (From what I remember of the decade as I spent the latter part of it watching Sesame Street). So I really liked the look of the film. It’s no The Shining as far as the look and feel go (can anything really beat that one?!). But I appreciate the effort they put into making this feel more like a good old-school haunted house movie.

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Did The Conjuring scare me? I know that’s the main question people seem to be asking. Well, I can’t really think of a movie that ever HAS scared me. There are some that give me the heebie jeebies a little bit. The one I just mentioned, The Shining, is probably the film I find the creepiest and comes the closest to “scaring” me. The Conjuring didn’t scare me, no, but had I seen it for the first time alone & in the middle of the night, I’m pretty sure I’d have slept with the lights on.

It’s fairly intense and that tired old “based on a true story” thing DOES seep into your brain whether you believe it or not – that’s why so many horror movies use that line. (I’ve not yet looked into the true story of the Warrens & Perron family so can’t comment on how true this film actually is). I was a little bit jumpy through the film but, as always, you know when the scares are coming. The film also shows us more of the “ghostly visitors” than I was expecting but I know they need to keep things balanced as the younger cinema goers expect that these days. I’ve always been someone who’s been more scared by the things we don’t actually see. However, I think The Conjuring strikes a decent balance at trying to keep the old-school supernatural horror fans like me and the current generation of fans happy.

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The number one reason that I think makes this film stand out so much compared to other horror films of recent years, though, is this: The acting (particularly the two female leads). Too many current horror films are full of either horrible acting or completely unlikeable characters. I don’t want to watch a movie with either of these things – I don’t think the rules should be any different for the horror genre. Lili Taylor was the best thing about this film for me. She was genuinely believable as a loving mother who just wants to protect her five daughters. I know she’s been in plenty of things in more recent years but not much that I’ve seen so it was great seeing her in a big role in this – I’ve always especially loved her part in Say Anything. Vera Farmiga is also great in this although I kind of feel I’ve seen her play a similar role before. The bond the two woman share as they both have daughters was very good. The men are fine but really take a backseat to all the females in the film (Ron Livingston especially seems to have very little to do). Being a woman, I really liked seeing a film with such strong female leads. Even all six daughters in this film do an excellent job, which is great as there has been some especially bad child-acting in horror films.

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Summary:

The Conjuring uses every trick in the book to scare us but at least uses those tricks in some fairly original & effective ways. The film has a good look & feel which will keep fans of old fashioned horror films happy but I think should also please a younger generation of fans who want something other than torture porn. But the thing that makes the film stand out the most in its genre is some great performances, especially those of the strong female leads. This film feels like a more grown-up horror film and will hopefully pave the way for similar films in this genre. I don’t think it’s the best “haunted house” film I’ve seen but it’s a refreshing return to an old formula that’s a step in the right direction in a generation now filled with some mind-numbingly bad and excessively gory so-called horror films.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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