Annabelle Comes Home is the third standalone movie for the creepy looking doll since her introduction during the original Conjuring movie. It’s also the seventh feature movie from the ever expanding ‘Conjuring Universe’, a series of movies that have seen wildly varying degrees of quality and success thus far. I tend to start my reviews for this series of movies by declaring my love for the first Conjuring, before wishing that the latest release I’m reviewing might actually match that. But so far the only other movie in the series to come anywhere close to doing that for me was the last Annabelle movie – Annabelle Creation. So, I had very high hopes for this next Annabelle installment.
After venturing into the past with the previous Annabelle movies, Annabelle Comes Home begins by expanding on the events of The Conjuring. The Warrens take the Annabelle doll into their care in order to keep it safe in their home, under lock and key in their famous artefact room. The car journey home is an eventful one though and it is a real joy to be back in the company of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga and their portrayal of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their characters, and their performances, have been the most enjoyable aspect of these movies for me and this opening chapter with them gets things off to a great start. With Annabelle in the artefact room, blessed by the local priest and contained in a cabinet made out of chapel glass, the evil is contained. And Annabelle is now home.
From there we shift forward a year, where the focus of the movie turns to the Warren’s 10 year old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace). Her parents occupation and reputation is clearly having an effect on her life, with other children at school poking fun at her and refusing to come to her birthday party at the creepy Warren house. That uncomfortable, uneasy feeling of having a room in your house where unspeakable evil is being contained probably doesn’t help things either! When her parents have to go away one night, friendly babysitter Mary Ellen comes over to take care of Judy, stepping in to the role of much needed friend. Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela arrives to join them a little bit later, uninvited and proving to be a little less straight-laced than Mary Ellen is.
Daniela is currently grieving from the recent loss of her father and is suffering with strong feelings of guilt surrounding the circumstances of his death. She is clearly fascinated and intrigued by the work of the Warrens, so while Mary Ellen and Judy are outside rollerskating, she wastes no time in hunting down the keys to the artefact room so that she can take a poke around inside. As Daniela slowly and carefully examines the room and its many contents for us, it’s clear that we’re getting a pretty good introduction to the variety of horrors set to be unleashed on the girls in some form later on in the movie. It’s a slow buildup though, and on top of the babysitter buildup we’ve had so far, it’s probably a good 45 minutes into the movie before anything substantial happens. I read my review of Annabelle Creation before seeing this movie, and I’d noted that following a similar pattern, with very good results, so I wasn’t overly concerned by all of that if the payoff was worth it.
The thing is though, when things do start going a little crazy, the results aren’t entirely successful. To be fair, there are some genuinely creepy and very well executed scares. But there are also plenty that don’t work so well too. Some new spirits are introduced too, no doubt destined to have their own spin-off movie at some point – ‘The Ferryman’, who guides souls into the afterlife and requires payment of two coins placed on the eyes of the dead, and the ‘Hellhound of Essex’. One of those works considerably well, the other just being distracting and silly.
Despite it’s slow-burn start, and it’s generic baby-sitter horror setting, I definitely enjoyed Annabelle Comes Home. It’s certainly not as good as either of The Conjuring movies, or Annabelle Creation, but it’s definitely much better than The Nun or The Curse of La Llorona.