IGN visited the director in the editing bay of the upcoming Conjuring sequel.
Some spoilers ahead for Annabelle Comes Home.
James Wan’s demonic doll Annabelle has been a breakout star of the Conjuring franchise ever since her first appearance in the opening of the first film about the real life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. She has since spawned her own spin-off series and in her upcoming third film, Annabelle Comes Home, fans get to learn about the true power of Annabelle after the Warrens make the mistake of putting her in their dangerous artifact room.
During a visit to Warner Bros. Studios, IGN was among the press invited to visit with director Gary Dauberman in his editing bay and get a sneak peek at three spooky sequences from the newest entry into the ever sprawling Conjuring-verse.
The first scene screened takes fans back to the aforementioned opening scene from The Conjuring, which saw the Warrens explaining the nature of the doll to some of her victims. Though the girls, Debbie and Camilla, think that she’s just the ghost of a young girl who is inhabiting the doll, Lorraine quickly explains otherwise: “I think what we have here is something extremely manipulative. It’s something inhuman.” Fans will recognize this moment, but here it’s expanded as the Warrens take Annabelle on a journey back to their house.
We get some nice character beats here as the couple drive home with Annabelle in the backseat. “Band of Gold” plays on the radio and they joke about Ed’s terrible sense of direction. It’s great to see Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga back together as play off each other and joke about ending up in California, due to Ed’s useless driving. There’s a nice nod to their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) who plays a huge part in this entry, as they say they could pick her up first and then head to the Gold Coast for a nice holiday.
As the Warrens drive home they hit a roadblock because of a terrible accident. It’s a dark night but it looks like it could have been one of the people who used to own Annabelle. After offering their help to a bemused cop, he asks them to turn around and makes a comment about Annabelle, saying “Nice doll.” Ed quickly quips, “That’s what you think.” The pair turn around as Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come” plays.
As they drive through the dark night, Ed and Lorraine realize that they’ve missed their turn, and end up by a very scary graveyard right out of a classic horror movie. There’s lots of rolling fog flicking around the car as Ed gets out to take a look at the vehicle, which seems to have stopped working, and as he does Lorraine is struck by the spookiness and power of the place they’ve found.
Dauberman explained why the scene was key. “That’s our way in, they’re bringing the doll home back into the artifact room. From there, we kick things off. The movie really focuses on Judy Warren and her babysitter, Mary Ellen, and one of her close friends, Daniela, and what happens when the doll sort of comes into the presence of these other artifacts inside the room.”
The next scene cemented the focus on Judy, who’s played by McKenna Grace from The Haunting of Hill House and Captain Marvel. It was a scene that clearly establishes something we haven’t seen in the other Conjuring films: the impact of the Warrens’ unusual work on their daughter Judy. It also introduces us to the other main players of Annabelle Comes Home.
The scene begins with Mary Ellen and Daniela in a local grocery store. It’s a great period bit as the pair wander around the ’70s set, chatting and catching up. But the action really comes from the fact that Daniela has realized Mary Ellen is babysitting Judy.
The young girl desperately wants to come and see the Warrens’ house and “help” Mary Ellen babysit, but her friend doesn’t want to allow it. There’s been some talk and an article that recently revealed what the Warrens do, and Mary Ellen would rather just ignore it and do her best to take care of Judy. Daniela has a plan, though, and as the pair reach the cashier — a young handsome boy called Bob who Mary Ellen has a crush on — Daniela threatens to reveal Mary Ellen’s feelings if she doesn’t let her come and babysit too.
As the three chat and Bob rings up their groceries, it becomes obvious the boy has a scary story about the Warrens but is too afraid to tell it. You really get a sense of Dauberman’s penchant for humor here as there’s a brilliant moment where a customer appears and drastically says “there’s been an accident” whilst covered in tomato sauce, looking like they’ve killed someone. It’s another nice riff on the classic horror style that Dauberman is going for.
The scene then shifts to Judy Warren’s school. The young girl is at the heart of the film and here we see her being bullied at school, struggling to fit in with her peers after an article about her parents has made her a social outcast. This is driven home by the fact that none of the kids in her class will attend her birthday party because of Ed and Lorraine and their unconventional career path. Even in this short sequence, Grace showcases the thoughtfulness and power that made her performance as young Theo the breakout from Haunting of Hill House.
Dauberman also gave the invited press an insight into why he felt like Judy Warren was such an interesting character to explore in Annabelle Comes Home. “I thought a lot about what it was like for Judy to grow up with these two very special people, to have them as parents and what that was like, what that pressure must be like. Because when you’re a kid all you want to do is be like everybody else, and the Warrens are nothing like anybody else.”
Judy isn’t the only strong young woman at the heart of this story as the action centers around the Warrens’ artifact room and the three girls who are in the house when Annabelle awakens. The third and final glimpse of the film we got was easily the most horrifying and explained Daniela’s desperation to join Mary Ellen babysitting at the infamous house.
Beginning with the young woman entering the artifact room, we see her looking around the spooky fan fave location which is filled to the brim with haunted and cursed objects. It’s clear that there’s some kind of malicious presence in the space, and as she walks further into the room a samurai suit of armor turns its head to follow her.
As Daniela walks through the cluttered room she finds an old locket bracelet on a shelf and pulls out a small photo of her father, folding it into the piece of jewelry. In the corner of the artifact room a chair begins to rock, and as she walks over to the piece of furniture it becomes clear that Daniela is looking for her father’s spirit.
It’s this connection to the dead that has drawn her here, and her desperation to reconnect with her father has put her and the other girls in the house in grave danger. Suddenly, a piano in the room begins to play. Daniela follows the sound and begins to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. As her fingers move over the keyboard, her father appears to play with her, his rotting hands on the piano.
For Dauberman, the scene also connects to the logic and rules of the franchise, especially how people interact with the spiritual side of the films. “You know, if you go online and look at videos of the [real] artifact room, there are all sorts of people who want to poke the bear and they want to see if it’s real. Like, ‘Haha, isn’t this funny?’ But maybe it isn’t as funny with a demonic entity attached to you.”
You’ll be able to investigate the artifact room and experience the true horror of all of its secrets when Annabelle Comes Home hits screens on its June 26 release date.