Annabelle Comes Home Review

The first Annabelle spinoff in 2014 felt like a cheap and quick money grab after the success of The Conjuring the year before and I’d say it stands as the worst experience in this cinematic universe. Three years later, Annabelle: Creation managed to slightly improve on its predecessor as it told the 1950s set backstory of the demonic doll. Some horror aficionados felt it was a significant improvement, but I wouldn’t go that far. Annabelle Comes Home, which takes place about a year after the events of The Conjuring, accomplishes what very few trilogies can. I think this is the best of the trio and about on the level with The Conjuring 2 as far as effectiveness. That means it’s nowhere near the quality of the film that kicked the whole shebang off, but it’s well-crafted and feels like some effort got put into it.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are back and they basically bookend this latest haunting. The real focus is their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) as she deals with that supremely creepy looking title doll. Her parents have recently acquired Annabelle and locked her in a case that explicitly warns others to keep it closed. When the Warrens go off somewhere investigating what will probably be a Conjuring flick someday, Judy is left in the care of high school babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) joins the party and is curious if there are evil spirits lurking in the Warren household. She’s also desperate to connect with her recently deceased father.

As we know, Daniela has found the right house to do just that. Her actions unlock a whole lotta spirited occurrences which come with the franchise’s now well-known and precise sound effects editing. Home marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who wrote the first two Annabelle‘s and The Nun (he also penned both It pics). This walks a sometimes pleasurable line between the terrorized babysitter premise while being steeped in Conjuring lore. We briefly see several other spirits awakened and that includes a dog who’s a bad boy and a board game with a mind of its own.

Yet Annabelle Comes Home never turns into Ouija or Cujo. Most of the focus is on Annabelle. And despite her still scary appearance, no Conjuring sequel/spinoff has quite nailed the key objective: being consistently scary itself. With the exception of Annabelle’s first 2014 starring role, they look good and sound really good. They’re also far cries from what started it all.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Box Office Prediction

America’s favorite paranormal investigating peeps The Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are back in theaters and on HBO Max next week in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This is the second sequel to the 2013 horror hit and the eighth overall entry in the Conjuring Universe. Michael Chaves (who made the previous series effort The Curse of la Llorona) takes over directorial duties from James Wan, who produces and shares a story credit. Costars include Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, and Julian Hilliard.

Originally scheduled for a September 2020 premiere before its COVID delay, Devil will attempt to reach an opening weekend gross commensurate with its predecessors. That could be a helluva task. Both pics with Conjuring in the title made just over $40 million for their starts. The first two Annabelle spin-offs took in over $30 million out of the gate. Another spin-off, The Nun, actually holds the series record with $53 million. Yet the past two flicks couldn’t match up. The third Annabelle made just over $20 million while the aforementioned la Llorona hit $26 million.

Those dwindling earnings could continue here. I’m a bit surprised that Warner Bros is releasing this just one week after A Quiet Place Part II, which should still be making loud noises at multiplexes. Furthermore, some fans with Max subscriptions will opt to view it in the comfort of their home. This franchise, on the other hand, has often shown an ability to over perform (The Nun hitting $50 million plus was not anticipated). Yet for the reasons described, I believe Devil could end up having the lowest domestic debut of the whole bunch.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opening weekend prediction: $19.8 million

For my Spirit Untamed prediction, click here:

The Nun Movie Review

We aren’t exactly blessed with a new horror classic in The Nun, the latest entry in the seemingly endless possibilities for spinoffs in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe. It does, however, manage to rise above the Annabelle creations before it with some style points and an occasional identity of its own. While both Annabelle and its sequel often felt like unnecessary cash grabs, I’ll give director Corin Hardy a bit of credit for creating something a little different. Let’s call it maybe a B- for trying.

The title character here first appeared in The Conjuring 2. She’s a demonic nun possessed by evil spirit Valak. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) had to put up with her sister acts of violence in that picture. This prequel and spin-off (preoff?… spinquel??) takes it back two decades earlier to the 1950s in Romania. A nun has committed suicide in a monastery after making the acquaintance of Valak and the Vatican enlists Father Burke (Demian Bechir) to look into it. He’s paired up with Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), who’s still in the novitiate (or training) stage before taking her vows.

Once they reach the scene of the death, Father and Sister are subject to lots of shadowy lurking, visions of terror, and charming local Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) who provides a couple moments of genuine comic relief. That’s not something often found in this particular Universe and it’s welcome because these pics aren’t worth taking seriously.

2013’s The Conjuring was a very entertaining and scary genre exercise. The direct sequel and the offshoots haven’t come close to its power. And The Nun is nowhere near as entertaining or scary. Yet I wouldn’t classify this one as lazy. The monastery setting creates a sometimes effective claustrophobic feel. We know this franchise is all about jump scares and they’re in bountiful supply. I’ll give Taissa Farmiga props for her ability to act as terrified as her big sister Vera in the main series flicks. Calling this the best spin-off thus far isn’t praise of the highest power, but I’ll confess to it holding my interest better than the doll.

**1/2 (out of four)

Annabelle Comes Home Box Office Prediction

2019 has seen a number of franchises stumble hard with their sequels and reboots. Yet Warner Bros has one of the sturdiest series in recent memory with the Conjuring Cinematic Universe. Next week brings the third edition of the Annabelle entries and I don’t see fatigue among horror fans happening here.

Annabelle Comes Home marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who penned both predecessors and last fall’s spin-off The Nun. Mckenna Grace and Madison Iseman star and this time Conjuring leads Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga join the doll party.

As mentioned, this has been a mighty profitable franchise for its studio. After five pictures, the lowest opening belongs to Annabelle: Creation at $35 million two summers ago. However, it legged out better than 2014’s Annabelle ($102 million vs. $84 million). Any thought of the series dwindling was dispelled last fall when The Nun took in $53 million for the best premiere of all.

What might give this Annabelle the lowest debut yet is a matter of logistics. This one opens on Wednesday and that will certainly eat into its traditional weekend haul. I still foresee a high 20s Friday to Sunday gross and high 40s when factoring in the extra two days.

Annabelle Comes Home opening weekend prediction: $27.4 million (Friday to Sunday); $38 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Yesterday prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: Shazam!

The DC Extended Universe branches out to lesser known source material on April 5 with the release of Shazam! The superhero tale puts a teenage boy in the body of an adult crime fighter with David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) directing and Zachary Levi in the title role.

The character has been around since 1940 and this big screen treatment is receiving praise based on its early screenings. Critics are calling this sweet and funny and continuing in the more lighthearted vein that DC has employed lately with hits like Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

With a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, could Shazam! resonate with Oscar voters? It’s doubtful. If the aforementioned DC efforts couldn’t land a single nod, it’s tough to envision any for this.

Bottom line: Shazam! should be another box office success for the revitalized franchise, but don’t expect awards chatter to follow. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Nun Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (09/05/18): I am revising my estimate up from $38.4 million to $45.4 million

The Conjuring Cinematic Universe rolls along when The Nun debuts next weekend. The fifth entry in the highly successful Warner Bros horror franchise is a prequel to all four previous pictures. Our title character was first glimpsed at in 2016’s The Conjuring 2. Corin Hardy directs a cast that includes Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga (sister of Conjuring star Vera), Jonas Bloquet, and Bonnie Aarons.

Just a couple of weeks back, The Nun received some unexpected publicity when YouTube pulled one of its trailers off the site due to its frightening jump scares. If anything, that notoriety could help peak the curiosity of moviegoers. Not that it necessarily needs it. The opening weekend grosses of this series have been remarkably consistent. Here’s the rundown:

The Conjuring – $41.8 million

Annabelle – $37.1 million

The Conjuring 2 – $40.4 million

Annabelle: Creation – $35 million

I don’t see any compelling reason why The Nun would change that range. You could say it seems pretty (ahem) black and white to me. I’ll predict this scary sister act hits high 30s.

The Nun opening weekend prediction: $45.4 million

For my Peppermint prediction, click here:

For my God Bless the Broken Road prediction, click here:

Annabelle: Creation Movie Review

The 2014 Conjuring spin-off Annabelle didn’t exactly leave me clamoring for an origin story of the motionless demonic doll, but here we are with Annabelle: Creation. Set 12 years before the events of its predecessor, this prequel manages to be a slight improvement. Unfortunately that isn’t saying much.

A prologue documents toy maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) tragically losing their young daughter. Dad’s profession reveals that he’s the creator of the doll that first appeared in 2013’s The Conjuring. We suspect his child’s demise will later tie into Annabelle’s evil ways.

We skip ahead to a dozen years later in the mid 1950s as six orphans and their nun caretaker (Stephanie Sigman) are looking for a home. They are taken in by the Mullins family on their sprawling country property. Janice (Talitha Bateman) is crippled by polio and quickly stricken by a feeling that something isn’t right with the creepy doll she finds at the house.

Those familiar with the franchise know the technicians involved in the film’s making pretty much take it from there. Creation wishes to generate its suspense through sounds and lighting reveals. David F. Sandberg, who last directed Lights Out, is behind the camera.

The original Annabelle felt like what it was – a quick cash grab to build on the success of The Conjuring. It also looked a little cheap. This doesn’t. It’s just not very scary. If you add up all the time throughout several pictures where the camera lingers on its title character, you might have enough screen time for a fifth entry in the series.

The makers of Creation succeed occasionally at putting together a fast scare, but it’s nearly two-hour runtime seems drawn out and routine. All the camera tricks and sound works cannot ultimately make Annabelle seem more than a mostly dull ploy to keep the franchise rolling.

** (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: September 15-17

Two new movies debut wide this weekend as It should continue its incredible run on top in its second weekend. The newbies are the Jennifer Lawrence horror thriller mother! and Dylan O’Brien/Michael Keaton CIA action flick American Assassin. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

I’m anticipating a close race for second between the newcomers with mother! just edging out Assassin. I look for both to post numbers in the low to mid teens.

And… now to It. I have much more below on its record breaking haul over the weekend which blew away even the most generous forecasts. The question now is how much it falls in its sophomore frame.

As I see it, It should drop around 55% or so according to similarly performing titles. However, the Stephen King adapted pic displayed remarkably sturdy holds over the weekend from Friday to Saturday to Sunday. I believe there’s a chance it doesn’t even quite dip 50%, but I will put it at about 52%.

My review of It can be found here:

The rest of the top five should consist of the underwhelming Home Again and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. 

And with that, my top 5 projections for the weekend:

1. It

Predicted Gross: $59 million (representing a drop of 52%)

2. mother!

Predicted Gross: $14.7 million

3. American Assassin

Predicted Gross: $13.2 million

4. Home Again

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million (representing a drop of 47%)

5. The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Predicted Gross: $2.6 million (representing a drop of 46%)

Box Office Results (September 8-10)

It happens and then some! You could see the potential for the horror pic’s opening weekend possibilities growing higher and higher prior to Friday. That said, it was hard to foresee just how huge it would be. It took in an astonishing $123.4 million… I was only $58M off with my $65.4 million estimate.

The film crossed into cultural phenomenon and must-see territory somewhere along the way. It deciminated records. The previous highest September debut held by Hotel Transylvania 2 at $48 million? It topped that by $75 million. The all-time horror opening record of $52 million by Paranormal Activity 3? Bested that by over $70 million.

It also scored the second largest R rated premiere ever behind Deadpool ($132M). As far as 2017 goes, it ranks third – meaning it debuted higher than Wonder Woman, SpiderMan: Homecoming and The Fate of the Furious.

Sometimes a picture manages to catch a wave of anticipation that few can see. It accomplished that and then some. Chapter 2 will be out in two years and expect lots of Stephen King remakes to go into production shortly.

There were other movies playing even if no one else really noticed. The Reese Witherspoon rom com Home Again couldn’t overcome its mostly poor reviews to serve as counter programming to the It juggernaut. It earned just $8.5 million for second, below my $11.3M projection.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard was third after three weeks on top with $4.8 million compared to my $5.4M prediction. It’s earned $64 million overall.

Annabelle: Creation was fourth with $4 million (I said $3.4M) as it nears the century mark with $96 million.

Wind River rounded out the top five with $3.1 million (I said $3.6M) to bring its total to $24 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Box Office Predictions: September 8-10

The fall box office officially is underway this weekend and it can’t come soon enough after a truly lackluster end to the summer season. This season is looking to kick off in record breaking fashion with the release of Stephen King adapted horror pic It as well as the Reese Witherspoon rom com Home Again. You can read my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

Riding a wave of solid buzz coupled with its eerie TV spots and trailers, It is shaping up to be an event film. My estimate easily makes it the highest September debut of all time and biggest horror opening in history.

Home Again should easily be #2 considering the extreme lack of competition, but the question is how effective it will be as counter programming for female audiences. I have it just under a teens debut as it hopes to leg out in subsequent weekends.

The rest of the top five will be filled with holdovers. The Hitman’s Bodyguard three week reign on top will be over. Last weekend’s #2 Annabelle: Creation may suffer the largest decline because of the It factor.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for the weekend:

1. It

Predicted Gross: $65.4 million

2. Home Again

Predicted Gross: $11.3 million

3. The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Predicted Gross: $5.4 million (representing a drop of 48%)

4. Wind River

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million (representing a drop of 43%)

5. Annabelle: Creation

Predicted Gross: $3.5 million (representing a drop of 54%)

Box Office Results (September 1-4)

As anticipated, the summer movie season closed with a whimper. That said, most of the holdovers help up better than my estimates while two newcomers couldn’t manage to find an audience. Even though my forecasts were low, this was still the weakest Labor Day frame in 17 years.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard placed first for the third weekend in a row with $13.2 million, managing to easily surpass my $8.9M projection. It ends its run in first place with $57 million total.

Annballe: Creation was second with $9.1 million – topping my meager $5.7M estimate for a tally of $90 million.

Wind River continued a laudible run, climbing to third with $7.8 million (I was under with $5.1M). It’s made $20 million thus far.

Animated Leap! was fourth with $6.2 million (I said $5.4M) to see its total jump to $12 million.

Dunkirk rounded out the top five with $5.5 million, ahead of my $4.2M prediction. The Oscar hopeful has amassed $180 million.

Aforementioned newbies both bombed. Latin comedy Hazlo Como Hombre earned a measly $1.4 million (I went higher with $3.5M). Long delayed Alicia Vikander period piece Tulip Fever fared even worse at $1.3 million (I predicted $1.9M). Those debuts were good for 22nd and 24th place, respectively. Ouch.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Box Office Predictions: September 1-4

After this weekend’s incredibly sluggish box office frame (more on that below), Hollywood is more or less taking the Labor Day holiday off. Only two pictures are debuting and neither is a wide release. They are the Spanish language comedy Hazlo Como Hombre and oft-delayed costume drama Tulip Fever. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

Even though Hombre is on 200 screens less than Tulip, I’m predicting it will have a higher opening. My $3.5 million estimate for it outshines my $1.9 million one for Tulip. Either way, my takes on the newbies put them both outside the top 5.

The good news (if you can call it that) for returnees is that this particular weekend usually sees very small declines and even increases from the previous weekend. That should mean a return engagement on top for The Hitman’s Bodyguard for the third time.

There could be a legitimate battle for #2 depending on the fluctuations of holdovers like Annabelle: Creation, Leap!, Wind River, Dunkirk, or a potentially higher Hombre gross than I’m saying.

And with that, my top 5 estimates for the holiday weekend:

1. The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (representing a drop of 13%)

2. Annabelle: Creation

Predicted Gross: $5.7 million (representing a drop of 25%)

3. Leap!

Predicted Gross: $5.4 million (representing an increase of 15%)

4. Wind River

Predicted Gross: $5.1 million (representing an increase of 11%)

5. Dunkirk

Predicted Gross: $4.2 million (representing an increase of 10%)

Box Office Results (August 25-27)

It was, to put it mildly, a terrible weekend at the box office. Between the lack of any high-profile releases, a hurricane in Texas, and a boxing match that captured the nation’s attention on Saturday night, the top 12 sunk to its lowest level since late September 2001. Obviously, this was at a time when the country was still reeling from the 9/11 tragedy. It will clearly take It the following weekend to wake the box office from its slumber because it isn’t happening over Labor Day.

As anticipated, The Hitman’s Bodyguard repeated at #1 with $10.2 million, in line with my $10.5M estimate for a two-week total of $39M. Look for it to three peat this weekend in another disastrous frame.

Annabelle: Creation held the runner-up spot again with $7.6 million, on pace with my $7.7M projection for a $78M overall tally.

Animated Leap! debuted in third with a middling $4.7 million, a bit above my $4.1M take. The production did manage an A Cinemascore grade, so it’ll hope for a fair Labor Day gross.

I incorrectly left the Jeremy Renner thriller Wind River outside the top 5, but it expanded its screen count to place fourth and made $4.6 million to bring its earnings to $10M.

Logan Lucky was fifth with $4.2 million (I said $4M) and it’s lackluster total is $14M.

Dunkirk was sixth with $3.9 million (I estimated $4.2M) for $172M overall.

Other debuts failed to garner eyeballs. Birth of the Dragon was 8th with $2.7 million compared to my $2.9M projection. Faith based drama All Saints faltered in 16th with $1.5 million. I was more generous with a $2.6M prediction.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…