When James Wan directed The Conjuring in 2013, it was impossible to guess just how quickly that franchise would grow and expand. Now, just six years later, The Conjuring universe is getting its seventh installment with Annabelle Comes Home, which is third film to feature the titular doll and joins The Curse of La Llorona as 2019 releases. Chronologically, this slots in between Annabelle and The Conjuring — the more recent Annabelle: Creation served as a prequel.
After taking possession of the Annabelle doll, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) transport it back to their New England home. On the drive, Lorraine makes a chilling discovery: the doll is a beacon for evil. Upon arriving at their house, the Warrens are met by a priest that helps them lock away the doll in their artifacts room, presumably sealing its evil within a special glass case.
All is well until the Warrens are called out of town on business, which prompts them to hire Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman; Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), a local high school girl, to babysit their 10-year-old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) overnight. When word reaches Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife), she convinces Mary Ellen to let her come over with untold designs on checking out the Warren’s supernatural items.
Daniela does some snooping and eventually finds a way into the artifacts room, touching almost everything in there before finally getting a “sign” from Annabelle that leads to her unlocking the case and releasing the evil spirit trapped within. Now the three girls must find a way to fend off multiple murderous abominations, track down Annabelle and return her to her case to set things right again.
It was nice to have the Warrens back in the picture, even if their time on screen is limited to the beginning and end. Their presence helps ground the film in the larger series and offers up common ground that other recent entries like Creation and The Nun lacked. The girls also do a good job in their respective roles, continuing a tradition of quality performances in the Conjuring movies. Judy in particular carries much of the film’s emotional weight.
Having Annabelle more or less “activate” many of the other artifacts in the room was a cool idea, and it allowed the filmmakers to utilize multiple antagonists rather than simply the inanimate doll. The Ferryman is probably the best of the lot, creepily stalking Mary Ellen while Annabelle and The Bride come after Judy and Daniela. The Werewolf doesn’t quite connect, though, from the moment it randomly materializes out of a heavy fog to its final appearance on top of the car.
You’re still getting a lot of the same style of scares that we’ve seen repeatedly as the horror universe continues to expand. We do prefer the more ominous, lingering shots to a bunch of jump scares, but after reviewing so many of The Conjuring spin offs we could spot a lot of what would happen a mile off. It’s past time to turn some of the expectations on their head to generate more unexpected moments.
Aspects of the plot in Annabelle Comes Home don’t make much sense as the film seems to bend or outright disregard whatever “rules” it establishes, sometimes only moments later. It’s also never clear exactly what power(s) each of the spirits actually possess. The Ferryman, for as creepy as he is, can apparently be neutralized by a flashlight. Another example is when the girls declare they’re “trapped” in the house. About five minutes later, Judy goes outside to get Mary Ellen’s inhaler from the car. Guess they weren’t trapped?
THE BONUS FEATURES
Ten-plus minutes of deleted scenes are included for your consumption, including a slightly alternate ending. As you’d suspect it’s mostly extra exposition and non-essential scenes, though it does include one solid scare. There’s another 20 minutes of featurettes focusing on creating some of the film’s antagonists (the werewolf, the ferryman) and then how various objects tie into the ongoing Conjuring universe.
Annabelle Comes Home is a notch or two above The Curse of La Llorona thanks to its setting and familiar characters, but poor attention to detail and familiar scare patterns hold it back.