The Conjuring Universe, created by James Wan, has put forth some decent entries into the horror genre, but it’s also released its fair share of cinematic duds along the way. With Annabelle Comes Home, we get an entry that falls in the middle of the pack. Director Gary Dauberman was the original screenwriter for 2014’s Annabelle, and 2017’s Annabelle: Creation — the first being a terrible prequel and the second one being a surprisingly good film for what was basically a prequel to a prequel — so with Annabelle Comes Home, we get a chapter that is kind of a mid-quel. Seriously, is that even a thing?
The movie opens with demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) taking into their possession the notorious Annabelle doll — as was already recounted in the cold open of the first Conjuring movie — where we learn again that the doll isn’t so much a possessed item as it is a conduit for demonic forces and a “Beacon to other spirits.” On the way home, the doll does its best to use this ability to kill good ole Ed, using the restless ghosts of a roadside cemetery to push him into traffic, but Annabelle fails and finds itself securely locked inside a cabinet made of chapel glass. Sadly, Ed and Lorraine Warren are not the protagonists of this story, as that duty falls to a couple of teenage babysitters and the Warren’s daughter, which kind of screams, “We could only afford Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga for a couple of shooting days.”
Ed and Lorraine have to leave for a weekend trip (a demon hunter’s work is never done), entrusting their daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), to the care of responsible teenager, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Unfortunately, her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) invites herself over so that she can snoop around the Warren’s spooky house. Turns out that Daniela’s father died in a car accident, an accident she blames herself for, and she hopes that the Warrens will have something that will allow her to communicate with him, but instead she is tricked into opening Annabelle’s case, as one would do if you’d come across a case holding a creepy doll that had a sign clearly stating “Warning! Positively Do Not Open.” Once released, the demon that is “using” Annabelle as a conduit proceeds to activate and call forth all the ghosts and cursed objects found in the locked room.
What follows is basically the movie equivalent of a fun-house ride, one full of spooks and scares that our heroes can traipse through, in what one could most charitably describe as a Haunted House Walkthrough. If you are looking for originality, Annabelle Comes Home is not the film for you, as it doesn’t have a plot so much as a series of horror clichés that it trots out as if on some sort of schedule — you could almost make a game of it.
Horror Cliché Bingo:
• Rocking chair rocking itself.
• Ghostly figures in the fog.
• Creepy ghost children.
• A knocking on the door that then reveals no one is there.
• Piano playing itself.
• A crucifix on the wall inverting itself.
• Hellhound or a werewolf appearing (the film’s not sure either).
• Figures standing spookily in the background.
• Spectral woman in white.
That all said, Annabelle Comes Home is not a bad horror movie; director Gary Dauberman clearly knows his way around the genre, having already written over a half-a-dozen horror flicks, and I will admit to having gooseflesh during several of the haunting sequences. Unfortunately, that’s all the film is; it’s just an assortment of scary sequences for our trio of kids to make their way through and not much else. It relies a little too heavily on scenes where a spooky figure is standing in the background, unbeknownst to our protagonists, and by the fourth or fifth time this happens you want to yell, “Just turn the fuck around!” Then there are the standard moronic actions of characters found in these types of films, who split up and explore the dark, spooky house on their own more often than members of the Scooby gang.
I had fun with Annabelle Comes Home, it had some decent chilling moments and, most importantly, it didn’t rely on jump scares, and it was certainly well above such deplorable entries as The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona.
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Movie Rank - 6/10
There are seven films so far in The Conjuring Universe, with even more in production, thus there is certainly the danger of horror fatigue setting in, but at least with Annabelle Comes Home producer James Wan shows there is still a little life left in this franchise, if not a lot of originality.