Annabelle Comes Home is, surprisingly, the seventh entry in the Conjuring franchise. This is actually the third Annabelle movie as Comes Home is a sequel to the 2013 The Conjuring but not a sequel to the original 2014’s Annabelle, which it was a prequel to the original Conjuring. Nor is this a direct sequel to 2017’s Annabelle: Creation which was also a prequel and the earliest movie in the timeline until 2018’s The Nun. And there’s also Curse of La Llorona that came out a few months ago. And there’s also Conjuring 2 and the third Conjuring being made right now! The seemingly random timeline placement makes this series even more convoluted than even the X–Men movie franchise. Unfortunately, Annabelle Comes Home isn’t some uber–Conjuring Avengers style team up, considering the two main leads from The Conjuring show up at the start of Annabelle Comes Home and then promptly bugger off as if they had something better to do. Maybe they were waiting to be in a better movie than this mostly tepid drag that only sparks to life at the end when Satan or whatever arrives.
Ghost hunting power duo the Warrens, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), have recently acquired a mysterious and very creepy looking doll called Annabelle that is a conduit to other spirits. They lock it up in their basement of otherworldly creepy possessed objects, each one potentially a Conjuring cinematic universe spin–off of its own! Anyway, their daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace) is about to have her birthday but is having trouble getting friends to visit since her parents are infamous demon hunters. So, while Ed and Lorraine are away, Judy is babysat by Mary (Madison Iseman) and Madison’s friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife) shows up. Unfortunately, nosy Daniela goes down to the basement of forbidden mystery and promptly unlocks the evil spirt of Annabelle which unleashes all of the demons in the abode. Now when their friend Bob (Michael Cimino) arrives, various ghosts are going bump in the night because Annabelle wants to take somebody’s soul.
Even though Wilson and Farmiga are plastered all over the ads like this is a proper Conjuring installment they’re basically just there for bookend scenes. It feels like at any moment they’re going to kick down the door and set all this supernatural ruckus nonsense straight, but they never do. On one hand, it is a fairly easy way to hand off the movie to the other characters and the Annabelle sub–series has never really involved the duo anyway. On the other hand, it feels a bit like a cheat, as if Marvel teased Avengers and made a movie about Hawkeye’s grandma. It’s cool to see Wilson and Farmiga again and their introductory scene is enjoyable but they leave early and stay gone.
This means the majority of the movie is about the trio of girls and the dopey guy who wanders right into an evil spirit situation. The most likable one is Judy because she is the only one who seems kind of sensible. She knows to stay out of the forbidden basement of dangerous evil spirits, unlike Daniela who is dimwitted even by horror movie standards considering she unlocks pure evil just because she wants to see her dead daddy again. Also, the fact the kid has trouble making friends is an easily manipulative way to garner sympathy, but it does pay off in the movie’s closing moments. The babysitter Mary is just someone to bounce exposition off. Bob has like one nifty bit where he fends off a hellhound but that’s it. There is a lot of time poured into setting up the high school relationship drama that is never interesting and the closest the movie comes to a joke is Bob having a nickname “Bob’s got balls!” because he’s the equipment manager at the school.
The 1970s setting does garner some cool style points but the movie never really takes full advantage of it, aside from a brief TV show clip and an incongruously funky ’70s rock tune that plays over the credits. This movie is mostly a drag as there are very long stretches that are supposed to garner tension while nothing happens. There are a few decent scares, Daniela has cool scene where her image on the TV occurs a few seconds before events happen in real time which nicely builds suspense. Also she has a fun bit where an organ grinder monkey toy just completely flips out but that’s mostly just because those toys look scary anytime. Things pick up near the end where the combined spirits go completely bonkers and there’s random shots of an dark Satanic figure that pops up. The ghost problem is solved is by supernatural malarkey which is even kind of dumb by horror movie standards. This film could have used a lively injection of some decent splatter but by keeping the rating under R it can make more cash.
Anabelle Comes Home isn’t entirely worthless, but it is kind of a waste of time. By teasing out Conjuring leads and then taking the duo away to focus on a bunch of kids is weak. Sure, the doll is freaky looking but not much else sustains this sleepy ghost story. V
ANNABELLE COMES HOME
Director: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Vera Farmiga,
Patrick Wilson and