review

Annabelle Comes Home: A Review

From the very first The Conjuring movie, I was fascinated by the room of cursed objects in the Warrens’ house. Every time a sequel or spinoff came out, I would always hope that this was the one that would be about the room, or would at least give more insight about the objects inside and where they’d all come from. Every time I was let down.

Until Annabelle came home.

The timeline for The Conjuring and all the movies within the series is all over the place. The timeline for The Conjuring universe is as follows:

  1. Annabelle: Creation

  2. The Nun

  3. Annabelle

  4. The Conjuring

  5. Annabelle Comes Home

  6. The Curse of La Llorona

  7. The Conjuring 2

There are other movies in progress, including a third Conjuring movie, and another spinoff entitled The Crooked Man featuring one of the entities from The Conjuring 2, but this is the order of what’s out so far. So the timeline jumps all over the place.

But finally, we’ve been made it to 1955, during which time Annabelle Comes Home takes place, and we finally get to learn more about the room of cursed objects.

Screenshot from  Annabelle Comes Home  produced by Atomic Monster Productions, New Line Cinema, and The Safran Company

Screenshot from Annabelle Comes Home produced by Atomic Monster Productions, New Line Cinema, and The Safran Company

In real life, it’s much more than just a room. The Warrens have a whole occult museum dedicated to objects they’ve obtained from various cases, now locked away safe. Annabelle is, like in the movies, the centrepiece, as the most malevolent of all the objects. 

Ed and Lorraine Warren (may they rest in peace) were paranormal investigators, and there are quite a few horror movies based upon various cases they worked. The Amityville Horror and A Haunting in Connecticut are two of the more prominent examples. The Conjuring series, including all its spinoffs, encompasses a few of their cases, one of which, is the Annabelle doll.

Annabelle has more or less been the centre of everything throughout the Conjuring movies, either appearing in prologues or flashbacks. With each Annabelle movie we’ve gotten a bit more about her story and how she came to not only live with the Warrens, but also how she came to be in the first place.

In Annabelle Comes Home, not only did we get a full movie about where she came from and who she was, but we got a full view of all the power the seemingly innocent doll wields.

I confess myself a bit torn on the movie, overall. I did enjoy it, and would certainly see it again, but I still left the theatre wanting a bit more. This being said, I think my expectations for the movie were exceedingly high in a few ways. As I said, I’ve been hoping for more on the room of cursed objects since watching the first Conjuring movie, but I’ve had several movies to build up hopes and thoughts about the movie’s potential. By the time I found myself sitting in the theatre ready to watch, there was no way the movie could live up to those thoughts.

It’s also worth noting that The Conjuring is the scariest horror movie I’ve ever seen. Of course, this is a completely personal thing, every horror movie viewer is scared by something different, but along with the Paranormal Activity series (particularly Ghost Dimension), The Conjuring and all its sequels and spinoffs really did it for me.

Annabelle Comes Home, however, did not.

Annabelle Comes Home  movie promo poster

Annabelle Comes Home movie promo poster

Or rather, I should clarify that it did scare me, but not nearly to the same degree as the previous movies did. However, between watching the previous Conjuring movies and the latest installment, I’ve watched a buttload of horror movies, and have grown to be a bit desensitized (which, oddly enough, is not a thing I ever thought I’d say about myself. Then again, if my younger self could see me even running a horror blog at all, she’d fall over from shock.)

All of this aside, however, I do truly believe that Annabelle Comes Home was everything it could possibly be. My problem is that I wanted a catalogue of every item in that room and a detailed backstory for all of it. But that’s a packed room, they’d need several room-of-cursed-objects movies in order to cover it all. I think that the movie really covered everything they reasonably could, and did a great job of terrifying the audience while doing so. Despite my overall sense of fearlessness, there were several instances that I jumped in my seat, and I did even hide behind my hands twice.

The movie involves Ed and Lorraine Warren going off on another business trip and leaving their daughter Judy home with the babysitter, Mary-Ellen. Mary Ellen plans some special events for the weekend, as it’s Judy’s birthday. None of the kids at school want to come celebrate with her, however, because they’re all either too afraid or have parents that are too afraid, having just learned what Judy’s parents do for work. Because of this, Mary Ellen plans to make Judy’s birthday extra special with just the two of them, and later, Ed and Lorraine once they get back home.

However, Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela discovers who her friend is babysitting for, and crashes the weekend, with the express desire of getting behind the locked door that leads to the room of cursed objects. For anyone that’s seen even a handful of horror movies before, I’m sure you can imagine what ensues from here.

Screenshot from  Annabelle Comes Home  produced by Atomic Monster Productions, New Line Cinema, and The Safran Company

Screenshot from Annabelle Comes Home produced by Atomic Monster Productions, New Line Cinema, and The Safran Company

Daniela breaks into the room, accidentally lets Annabelle out, and, of course, chaos ensues. Let’s just say that the warning on Annabelle’s box, “Positively do not open”, is there for a very good reason.

Despite the fact that there’s simply not enough time to catalogue every item in that room, the movie does do get through several choice items, including coins for the ferryman, which leads to several interesting twists and turns in the movie.

I would also love to take a moment to talk up McKenna Grace. That child is going places, and the fact that she’s already got such an impressive resume only serves to fuel that fact. Annabelle Comes Home had a few lead characters that different sections of the movie were dedicated to, but I feel it’s safe to say that, ultimately, Judy Warren, played by McKenna Grace was the central figure.

All in all, I did quite enjoy the movie, and while my own hopes may have been a bit too high, I think the movie did turn out great, and it holds up quite well against the rest of the series from which it comes.

I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it (though for anyone who isn’t quite as used to horror movies, do be aware, as it will be quite scary). And remember: don’t pay his toll, he’ll take your soul, and whatever you do—

Positively, do not open.

Photo of the real Annabelle doll that currently sits in the Warren’s Occult Museum (Photo found via Reddit)

Photo of the real Annabelle doll that currently sits in the Warren’s Occult Museum (Photo found via Reddit)


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

RECLAIM

Check out  https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/  for more information about this stunning collection!

Check out https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/ for more information about this stunning collection!

RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry addresses the need for women to regain control and autonomy over their own bodies, and acts as a platform to represent their struggles and backgrounds. In this first part to the two-part anthology series, readers will not be disappointed with the diverse body of writers, connecting to different cultures, orientations, and races.

Published in May 2019, this anthology features forty-seven female writers, building a community within fluid poems that spread smoothly out over the pages. Engaging by how the voices promote unity in their struggles and encounters, this impressive collection will linger on in the minds of readers.

Easily shifting the balance, writers snatch at their own bodies and examine the carcasses left behind by society. This impressive literary collection features a variety of excellent work, but in particular “Training Bras” by Wanda Deglane andFat Girls on Trains” by Djamilla Mercurio demand for swift attention. Their concepts and experiences of bodies are immediately relatable, grabbing at attention. Often, women become disconnected from power and control over their bodies, and these two poems bring forward a whirlpool of emotions and experiences.

Women have spent decades struggling to find a platform for their voices. Pulling together groups of like-minded individuals, they have brought forward countless issues of gender experiences, and fought to be heard. Even with historical groups lobbying together for change, certain voices were sidelined and left unheard.

This anthology helps move forward. How we navigate our own lives is often an isolating experience, but this community of women pulls together their own experiences, and knits together an entire voyage of individual voices. Readers will certainly be enriched by this collection of poetry and group of women.


If you are looking for a host of voices that linger over the pages, do not hesitate in picking up RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry today.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Weird: A Review

In February, we here at Voices In The Attic did indeed leave our dark hovel for a night out at the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa, where we watched a performance of Weird: The Witches of Macbeth.

Weird is the flagship show of Theatre Articus, a performance company based in Kitchener-Waterloo. You might recognize this show from the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival, where it was the recipient of the Cutting Edge Award. The Ottawa Fringe Festival also gave Weird a glowing review, and awarded it the Best of Fest in 2015. So we knew we were in for a pretty great show.

As the name suggests, Weird is based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. It combines both the famous verses from the original play, and new verses in Iambic pentameter by writer and director Phillip Psutka. However, Macbeth is just an invisible character on the sidelines of this play, because the Weird Sisters are centre stage, as they rightfully should be.

The Witches of Macbeth are iconic characters in both theatre and literature. To many modern women, they are a symbol of female power. However, at the time of their conception, post-Elizabethan Britain had descended into a hundred-year witch panic. Dissident women were put to trial, burned or taken to the gallows for something as small as a birthmark. So, naturally, the original Weird Sisters were supposed to represent evil and spiritual treachery.

That’s not the case in this play though. Philip Psutka and co-creator Lindsay Bellaire masterfully present the witches as multi-dimensional characters, who are anything but evil. Instead, they are servants to nature. The three sisters—played by Lindsay Bellaire, Lauren Fields and Emily Hughes—are incredibly compelling women.

All in all, Weird truly is a unique composition of aerial acrobatics on crimson silks, imaginative storytelling, fantastic acting, and expert use of Shakespearean language and rhythm. And we didn’t even need a translation book to understand it! I would absolutely recommend this show to anyone looking for innovative Canadian theatre. If you see it around, go see it!

I will leave you with a particularly potent (and some might say relevant) line from Weird: “The earth doth rot, when power is had and reason is not,”


Check out Theatre Articus’ website for more information.


Do you love the Witches of Macbeth as much as we do, because we really love the Witches of Macbeth. Talk to us in the comments!


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

The Perils of Marriage

In black and white film, a house is devoured by flames as a car races down the road, drawn to the scene of the grand estate on fire. By Hitchcock’s direction servants rush along the lawn, looking upwards to the west wing of the house where a woman in black is visible standing by the window. The bed of the first Mrs. de Winter burns in her shadow, the final reach of the dead woman.

Originally a novel published in 1938, Alfred Hitchcock managed to transition Rebecca into an Academy Award winning film in 1940. Often hailed as the master of the suspense genre, he rose in popularity, allowing for his films to endure over the course of many decades. Newer remakes have helped to put his original work back into the spotlight, such as the television show Bates Motel which aired in 2013, launching attention back to the original masterpiece, Psycho.

His film history has lasted to this date, and it was because of Daphne du Maurier that he grew in talent, fully mastering his dramatic camera angles and rigid storyboard method.

Having begun her career as a writer with a series of short stories published throughout the 1920s, du Maurier was thrust into the literary spotlight with the release of Rebecca. Despite having languished while writing the novel as part of her three book deal, as well as trashing the first 15,000 words she had drafted, Rebecca had swiftly come to form after a Christmas spent far away from her own family and children. Having been inspired heavily by du Maurier’s own feelings of jealousy of her husband’s prior relationship, she managed to spin a complex gothic tale of a nameless girl, and a dead woman.

As a romantic psychological thriller, Rebecca told the story of a nameless protagonist and the whirlwind romance between her and Max de Winter, a rich widower. His first wife, Rebecca de Winter manages to extend her presence from beyond the watery grave, stirring strong emotions of jealousy and resentment. Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine take on the roles of the newly married couple, swiftly unraveling over the course of the film and novel.

Hitchcock learned a valuable formula in crafting a classic gothic tale from du Maurier. A female, having arrived at a large English estate shrouded in mystery, struggling to create herself a new life are the bones of the many grim stories that came before.  One of the primary achievements of the film was masking the identity of the protagonist so thoroughly, that she often exists without any identity. Other characters talk around her, rarely ever confirming her marital name and status.

This was a massive success for the film, having had to adapt from the first person narrative where readers had the advantage of gaining insight from the narrator herself. By Hitchcock’s hand, the protagonist was reshaped and presented as a floundering girl, someone without any real identity that could contend with Rebecca’s.

From the 1940 film  Rebecca

From the 1940 film Rebecca

The setting of Rebecca allowed for the film to shine. As a grand estate alongside the coast, du Maurier had crafted a complex environment filled with rocky coves and hidden shipwrecks. Because of this diverse landscape, the film was allowed to be visually complex. The structure itself had been massive, looming over the characters. Often, the protagonist would be seen trembling her way through the long corridors and grand rooms, trying to find refuge.

Hitchcock managed to bring a dead woman back to life by scattering symbols of her throughout Manderley. Directed by the original novel, tokens of Rebecca de Winter’s life remain on display. Her embroidered initials stake her claim across the domestic realm of the estate, and it was by her own hand that she transitioned the small building by the cove into a place where she could freely engage in a sexual lifestyle with other men. Rebecca’s bedroom and morning room exist and function as an extension of her domain, allowing her world to remain present.

One of the highlights of the film was the clear representation of a toxic relationship. The protagonist visibly wilts, trying to win her husband’s affections. However, Max de Winter often rebukes her, heaping on criticism of her character and watching her spiral into a state of nervousness. As she attempts to change her appearance numerous times, it is never to his satisfaction. She cannot compete with the beauty of his former wife, and is trapped in a marriage without real love.

The turning point in their relationship is when Rebecca’s ship is recovered. Despite the careful transition of novel-to-film, the ending had to be altered to be approved by motion picture production code. In the original novel, Max de Winter admitted to murdering his wife by shooting her. In contrast, Hitchcock was forced to alter the scene to make it more tasteful by having him admit, in an emotional state, that it had been an accidental confrontation between the two that had led to her death.

The protagonist is able to swiftly take control of their marriage with this confession, delighted with the events that had transpired a year ago. Rebecca had been tarnished, and instead of a murdered victim, she became a hurdle for the two to overcome together. She argues that Rebecca de Winter’s death could be covered up, and that it would always be his voice against a dead woman.

From the 1940 film  Rebecca

From the 1940 film Rebecca

Perhaps the grim thrill of the protagonist throwing herself at Max de Winter’s defense is the real horror of the story. Despite Rebecca having been a murdered woman, the narrator is suddenly able to restore her own identity and take control of the situation, drowning the reality of the situation.

Hitchcock learned a valuable lesson from du Maurier. The grimness of humankind and the toxic relationship between the married couple represented the real peril of marriage; in losing one’s voice and becoming trapped into gendered roles of the time. She gave him incredible pacing building to the shocking truth to Rebecca de Winter’s death, and the transition of a struggling woman into a hardened soul, clinging to their relationship while denying another woman her voice.

However, perhaps the greatest element of Rebecca was the creation of Mrs. Danvers. With numerous descriptions of her ‘dead skull’s face’ in the novel, the film positioned her shrouded in dark shadows, a loathsome figure stalking the protagonist around Manderley.

Admittedly, Mrs. Danvers was the finest creation to be given to the gothic genre as a whole. As a classic element to the genre, her figure could be traced to other published work decades later. For example, her personality could be found in the sadistic cab driver from Shirley Jackson’s The Sundial, or Ruth Ware’s housekeeper in The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Never once a redeemable character, she morbidly obsesses over the life of her deceased mistress. Hitchcock was able to bring her to life, expertly framed in darkness, and let her menace her way about.

While Hitchcock could be said to be the master of suspense, I think it would be fair to claim Du Maurier the mistress of suspense.

While he has transitioned two other pieces of du Maurier’s to film, Rebecca was one he was forced by the studio to remain faithful to, despite the altering of the cold-blooded murder. The novel had been a gift, almost, to Hitchcock, despite his later complaints of the lack of humour the film contained. He was able to take the slow transition of a helpless woman into a hardened accomplice, and to the slow destruction of something grand and make it into something superior to many films of the time.


Has one of your favorite books been transitioned to the movie screen? Was it good? Terrible? Tell me your bookish plights below.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

A Stone’s Throw Across Generations

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Very few pieces of literature have been able to traumatize generation after generation of readers. Most high school English classes feature a collection of short stories, demonstrating the style and themes conveyed in a limited space. Shirley Jackson has always been a standout in these collections, her name grim upon a cover. The Lottery drove her to fame, though, as it was the very work which would not just leave intense emotional scars on my mother’s psyche, but also rattled an entire group of subscribers to The New Yorker when it was first published in 1948.

Arguably, this short story is what escalated Jackson’s career in writing. Acting as both housewife and breadwinner, she was constantly engaged in battles of rearing children.

The Lottery had described a small community blindly following a tradition that featured execution. Readers of The New Yorker were not prepared for the sudden violence that Jackson lobbed at them. They were repelled, demanding answers and directing their disdain for the writing to the author herself.

Perhaps it was because Jackson had written this piece in the post-war years, that caused such havoc. People had begun to realize the dangers of blind faith due to the wildly popular anti-Semitic behaviours that nearly eradicated a group of people through a system of industrial execution. This might have spurred the sharp backlash against the magazine and Jackson. It might have even been that people noticed reflections of themselves in her writing, and felt attacked.

Or, maybe they were simply terrified that a mere housewife concocted such a story.

The Lottery clearly earned Jackson a reputation. Recognized as one of the greatest short stories in American literature, it also triggered a landslide of hate. She was responsible for the most mail that The New Yorker had received at the time in response to a published story. By the end of the summer of 1948 she had received over three hundred letters, and only a handful had been kind. Those letters in particular had been written by friends, she admitted.

However, everyone had something to say about her writing. Her own mother contributed to the burden that her mailbox had become, stating her own disapproval for the piece. Jackson was under immense pressure to change her style and to embrace a more optimistic genre of writing. Nonetheless she continued onwards, featuring more abusive villages in her later novels like The Sundial and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Jackson might have been inspired by her own experiences to produce such works. It was when she was living in North Bennington with her family did she experience the toxic environment of anti-Semitic attitudes. Due to her husband’s Jewish heritage and her married name, she experienced social ostracism and witnessed the unchecked behaviour of her neighbours. Despite that turbulent time, however, North Bennington has taken to celebrating Jackson’s life by declaring June 26th Shirley Jackson Day. Clearly, the passage of time has altered some people and their obsession with her work.

Later letters sent to Jackson about The Lottery often carried more curiosity. Readers were determined to discover not only if there were communities such as this, but if they could visit and watch the public stoning.

Interestingly enough, The Lottery grew in fame and popularity that it was later transitioned into other forms of entertainment. The story has been adapted for a ballet performance, a radio play and was also featured on The Simpsons.

Photo Courtesy of Aperture Vintage.

Photo Courtesy of Aperture Vintage.

Jackson had always been loath to discuss her work, or to give any further explanation of it. Her grim worlds had been something of a gift to readers, something she cared little for being interviewed about. It was with The Lottery that she was forced to give a statement saying, “[]what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.”

Perhaps Jackson never knew what she would unleash that day she sat down behind her typewriter, struck with an idea of a strange village and a lottery system. Whatever her intentions were, though, she did alter American literature by providing one of the most unique voices to have been found.


Were you traumatized by The Lottery? What do you think about hate mail? Comment your thoughts!


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

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