When James Wan and New Line Cinema debut The Conjuring in the summer of 2013, they fundamentally changed the contemporary landscape of horror filmmaking. The film wasn’t just a swing back towards big-budget, R-rated studio horror, it kicked off one of the highest-grossing horror franchises of all time, introducing audiences to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Not to mention the terrifying residents of their haunted artifact room, foremost among them, the demonic doll Annabelle.
In Annabelle Comes Home, it all comes full circle. The seventh film in the Conjuring franchise and the third in the Annabelle spinoffs, Annabelle Comes Home moves past the prequel portion of the doll’s terrifying tale, catching up to the moment she went home with the Warrens. And an especially terrifying night when she unleashed the cursed, haunted and possessed contents of the artifact room on their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace).
With Annabelle Comes Home in theaters on June 26, I recently had the opportunity to drop into the editing room at Warner Bros. Studios to watch a few minutes of footage and chat with writer/director Gary Dauberman. An in-house favorite at New Line, Dauberman’s been with the franchise since penning the script for 2014’s Annabelle, 2017’s Annabelle: Creation, and last year’s surprise box office breakout The Nun, yet another arm of the Conuring franchise. With Annabelle Comes Home, Dauberman makes his directorial debut, and with the Warrens, Annabelle, and the entire artifact room, the filmmaker essentially has the keys to the kingdom at his disposal.
And he doesn’t plan to waste them. Having fully explored the origins of the titular demonic doll, Dauberman is opting to tie his film into the universe by digging into the mythology of the Warrens themselves, and what it means to be a family when you’re locked in a war against the forces of evil. “It definitely ties into the larger continuity,” Dauberman explained. “Annabelle: Creation sort of focused on the origin the creation of the doll and in this one I wanted to dig into the Warrens a little bit. It’s nice to see them, just for a minute, not talk about a paranormal investigation or something, just be two people who are married in a relationship. He’s got a terrible sense of direction. Just things like that and have them be for a moment, normal.
We get a glimpse of that normalcy in the first piece of footage he shows us, following Ed and Lorraine from the house where they collected Annabelle to their journey home — where Ed’s terrible sense of direction comes out to play. The scene also shows us how quickly that normalcy can turn into something else when you’re dealing with possessed dolls and a medium as powerful as Lorraine Warren, and Dauberman makes fun work of building up the scares between the emotional beats.
“it’s kind of a thematic element throughout the movie because I thought about a lot what it was like for Judy Warren to grow up,” Dauberman continued, “to have these two very special people as parents. What that was like and what that pressure must be like? When you’re a kid all you want to do is be like everyone else, and the Warrens are nothing like anybody, they’re so different and unique. So, what that must have been like for her? That’s sort of the mythology I’m digging into in the movie, as opposed to — well, it will be about the doll, but I feel like we’ve told that story… so I want to branch out in different directions. And of course, tell the backstory of different artifacts we’ve seen in other movies.”