“Annabelle Comes Home” scares and rocks out

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“Annabelle Comes Home,” the latest in the “Conjuring” franchise and the third in the “Annabelle” series, manages to continue frightening moviegoers. In addition, a subtle, yet rocking soundtrack keeps audiences grounded in the time period of the film.

While the “Annabelle” series is based on real-events, in particular the haunting of a doll that manages to wreck havoc in the lives of humans who come near it, and the paranormal and spiritual experts who lock the doll away from the public, viewers might wonder how many of the depicted events are based on actual occurrences. The way the movie plays out, everything looks real.

One of the facets of the film that adds to its veracity is that some of the scariest moments happen during daylight hours. It sounds simple, as if that wouldn’t matter very much, but scary things happening at night in the world of a horror movie is practically a cliché.

As always, newspapers featuring actual articles about the Warrens (the demon-fighting couple) are placed in the film. This placement also serves to remind moviegoers that the Warrens and their world were real.

Sadly, both of the Warrens are deceased now. According to the film, Lorraine Warren passed away this year. It is unclear what will become of their collection of haunted artifacts, including the real Annabelle. A collection so haunted it had to blessed weekly to keep it from harming people.

The scary events were exactly that. And while moviegoers are being scared, they are also treated to a series of songs that color in the world of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The songs either highlight onscreen action, or point out the musical tastes of the characters. Focusing on music helps the real-world of the movie take shape. What follows is a discussion of several of the songs that seem to be prominently placed in the movie.

Rocking soundtrack of “Annabelle Comes Home”

One of the first notable songs in the movie is “Band of Gold”(1970) by Freda Payne. A jaunty soul-pop track that makes the most of Payne’s raspy, plaintive voice and a catchy horn and drum combo, the track plays as the Warrens are retrieving Annabelle from a pair of young nurses who think the doll is haunted by the spirit of a young girl. The Warrens convince them that what is attached to the doll is worse than that. They leave with the doll, and as it becomes clear that Ed is not good with directions, and sometimes a successful marriage means suffering a beloved’s flaws, “A Band of Gold” plays. The song, though not lighthearted, seems like a song that would play on the radio and one that the Warrens might relate to.

Several minutes later, the Warrens’ way is blocked by an accident. The Warrens also have car trouble, which Ed takes care of while they are stalled in front of a cemetery. In the meantime, Annabelle is sitting in the backseat, looking poised for otherworldly mischief. There is a close-up of her eyes, and “These Eyes” (1969) by the Guess Who plays. It is enough to make moviegoers who are not even rock ‘n’ roll fans chuckle.

The Warrens have to go out of town for an investigation. They leave their young daughter with a teenage babysitter. The girl’s well-meaning, but awkward suitor serenades her with his voice and an acoustic guitar. His song choice? “Everything I Own” (1972). The moment is comedic. He forgets his chords. He stumbles. He never finishes singing, but his efforts are appreciated onscreen and off.

“Dancing in the Moonlight” (1972) is heard a couple times, it is as if it is the song for the haunted artifacts. The song plays at the end, too, which plays up the idea of the song being for Annabelle and company.

In the middle of the film, the teenage girls (a friend of the babysitter comes over and ends up playing a pivotal role in the storyline) are clearly meant to be depicted as Badfinger fans. “Day After Day” (1971) is played more than once.

While some critics (and a few moviegoers) have declared “Annabelle Comes Home” less scary than its predecessors, the film does build suspense and carefully crafts the world it intends characters to inhabit. That world-building comes in part from the music the filmmakers use to bring out the tone of the time period.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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