Interview: Gary Dauberman on Annabelle Comes Home and Swamp Thing

Annabelle Comes Home Gary Dauberman

Gary Dauberman on Annabelle Comes Home set. Credit: Warner Bros/Justin Lubin

Annabelle Comes Home is now in theaters, and it follows Judy Warren, the daughter of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, as she tries to have a normal life as a kid. Mary Ellen is responsible for babysitting Judy, but that can be hard when her friend, Daniela Rios, accidentally unleashes the demon trapped inside the Annabelle doll. Director and writer Gary Dauberman talks about the film as well as sharing his thoughts on DC Universe’s Swamp Thing being canceled, which he helped write and develop.

Nerd Reactor: Was it challenging doing the third Annabelle film?

Gary Dauberman: It was a challenge. It was very important to me. I wanted to make something that felt like, “If you didn’t see the other two, although you should, you can still follow along. I think you can for sure. I thought a lot about what it would be like to be Judy Warren, and what it’s like to see what [the Warrens] do. Not from the outside, but knowing that you have to share your parents with the outside world in a way that maybe you’re not comfortable with. And seeing them tried in the press about what they do and how that affects her growing up.

What was it like trying to up the ante with the horror compared to the previous films? Was there pressure in trying to make it scarier?

Gary Dauberman: There’s always a ton of pressure. I think the challenge is how can we do this a little bit differently than what came before so that it feels fresh and unique. Fortunately, we have the artifact room to work with that provided a lot of the “this object might have a different type of scare” as opposed to another one. So we were able to change it up.

We’re the first people to see the movie. If we’re bored, then the audience is going to be bored. Fortunately, all of us who work on this movie love horror, and I think we all have a commercial sensibility and a good internal barometer on what’s going to work and what isn’t.

Do you have any haunted stories? Do you get scared?

Gary Dauberman: I tend to work late at night. Sometimes I’ll go to bed early or wake up after the kids are in bed and stuff and I’ll wake up at 1 or 2. So I get freaked out when I hear the creaks and groans. There have been strange events that have happened over the years on these movies.

One of the ones that happened on [Annabelle Comes Home] was an artifact. Tom Spence, our propmaster who is just brilliant and has been on a lot of these movies, couldn’t find one of the artifacts. He didn’t know where it was, and it happened to be on the next stage over and it was destroyed a little bit. It was burned or something, which was really unusual. We don’t have a rhyme or reason for it, and something like that has happened on all these movies. It’s something that makes you wonder a little bit more about that doll or a little bit more on what we’re inviting on the stage with us. And that’s why, frankly, we have the set blessed for every production.

Credit: Warner Bros/Justin Lubin

What’s your favorite scare moments in the film?

Gary Dauberman: I really like the television scare because it just feels different from the other scares in the movie and in the past movies. This felt like a little Twilight Zone to me and a little sci-fi, which I’m a huge fan of as well. It’s a little bit of that and it’s cool to bring into the universe.

You have brought horror elements in many of your projects including DC Universe’s Swamp Thing. What’s it like working on that, and how do you feel about the aftermath?

Gary Dauberman: I’m really proud of the show. Mark [Verheiden] and I came into it and we really wanted it to be true to the spirit of the comics. I think we achieved that. When I say we, I mean the cast and crew. It was a really joyful experience and really rewarding. The captain of the ship was Mark Verheiden. He did a phenomenal job. I’m really proud of it and I think it’s really gratifying and rewarding to see the critics and the fans who have seen the show embracing it and understanding what we’re trying to achieve. That was the goal.

And in terms of it just being canceled… I don’t know why these decisions are made or what the business sense of it is. I’d pull my hair out if I started thinking about why these things are. I’m just really disappointed that it was canceled. For us, we really were satisfied with the first season, but it also felt like we were just getting started. There was so much great conversation about where we could go with this thing. The swamp, a lot like the artifact room, is such a fertile ground for all these different types of stories and all these different types of scares and horror that you don’t get on TV every day. It just bummed us out that we weren’t able to explore that and exploit that the way we wanted to.

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John Nguyen
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