Following the success of the first Conjuring movie in 2013, Warner Bros wasted no time in delivering a spinoff. 2014’s Annabelle explored the origins of the doll that demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren dealt with at the beginning of The Conjuring. Three years later, Annabelle: Creation turned back the clock even further on the entity’s past, but the latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home, takes us back to the Conjuring-era time period
Annabelle Comes Home, takes the classic horror troupe of Teenage Babysitters in Predicaments, and ups the ante by placing them in Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warrens’ (Vera Farmiga) house full of haunted objects. These familiar elements culminate in a fun, refreshing, even heart- warming entry into the Conjuring franchise. Well-done scares are paired with tension-breaking levity, and we even see a few new monsters (and/or sequel fodder). Annabelle Comes Home should serve as a not-so-serious summer horror flick for anyone looking to laugh a little and jump a lot.This film picks up shortly after the conclusion of The Conjuring, but the bulk of the story is largely set before The Conjuring 2. Lorraine, the clairvoyant of this ghost-hunting duo, realises that not only is Annabelle a conduit, she’s also a beacon for other spirits. The doll is basically Captain America, yelling whatever the spirit equivalent of “Avengers Assemble!” is into the spirit world.
Now, not all spirits are evil, but some of them are very, very bad. For this reason, Annabelle is the most dangerous thing in the Warrens’ collection. Because attempting to destroy the doll will only make everything worse, the Warrens seal her in a consecrated glass box with a sign instructing anyone who somehow gets into their room of cursed objects to never, ever let her out. Obviously, that warning isn’t heeded.
The Warrens go out of town for the night leaving their 10-year-old daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) in the hands of her babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). She’s a trustworthy girl so the Warrens should have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong! Mary Ellen’s best friend Daniella (Katie Sarife) drops by in the early evening and she seems very curious about what’s in that room. A series of mostly predictable events leads to Annabelle being unleashed and boom: it’s a ’70s-era teen horror movie.
While previous Annabelle movies have stumbled over complicated, murky plots about a demonic entity whose motivations are mostly unclear—aside from its unending quest to collect human souls —Annabelle Comes Home is simple. The house itself is haunted because it’s full of haunted stuff, intentionally placed there by adults who investigate hauntings. The characters can’t just run away screaming for multiple reasons, but they’re also not entirely uninformed about the paranormal. While the entire plot is predicated on one person doing something really stupid, the film explains her motivations.
This clear-cut plotting is welcome in a franchise where I’m still wondering why anyone thought this doll was a totally normal thing to make or own in the first place. I mean, look at it! And remember how in Cabin in the Woods, the basement was also full of haunted things just waiting to be activated? Thanks to Annabelle’s beacon status, this film is like that if the characters had managed to activate all of them at once.
The spooky stuff comes on slow—perhaps too slow, even. Once it all ramps up, however, there are some genuinely creative and beautifully shot scares. The myriad entities allow for each character to have their moment while simultaneously setting up possible sequels, a la The Nun, The Curse of La Llorona, and the forthcoming The Crooked Man.
As in previous Conjuring films, the best scares are the subtle ones that build in layers of increasing dread, while the CGI terrors are bigger, but not necessarily better. My favourite scare is a seemingly innocent object that you realise is going to be bad news later on and when it pays off, you’re not sure if you should laugh or hide.
Annabelle Comes Home is still spooky in all the ways fans of the series expect, but it also features a kind of levity — particularly when it comes to the ordeal of Bob (Michael Cimino),a kindhearted teenage neighbour who has a crush on Mary Ellen and is hoping to use this opportunity to ask her out — not typically found in its sinister siblings.
Verdict: Lacking the style and scares of the better Conjuring movies, Annabelle Comes Home plays its tantalising spook-house concept a little slow and far too straight. So, 2.5/5