There’s a scene early on in Annabelle Comes Home where Vera Farmiga’s Lorraine hears a ghost talking to her in the backseat of the car. Lorraine doesn’t scream or even flinch. Having been surrounded by ghosts and demons for so long, she just calmly responds to the otherworldly presence. That kind of sums up the tone of this entire movie. The performances are universally strong and the environments are laced with atmosphere. The film itself is never jump out of your scary, however. We’ve seen much of this before and it’s starting to become routine. That being said, Annabelle Comes Home delivers what audiences have come to expect and longtime fans of this franchise likely won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for a creepy doll who’ll catch you off-guard, however, consider seeking out Chucky or Gabby Gabby.
The 2014 Annabelle spinoff movie was nothing to write home about, but Annabelle: Creation proved to be one of the most improved horror sequels of the recent memory. Well, actually, Creation was technically a prequel to the original Annabelle. So, does that make Annabelle Comes Home the third or second film in this trilogy? If that’s not confusing enough, Annabelle Comes Home also serves as a continuation of The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, but it’s not The Conjuring 3, which is set to come out next year. Then somewhere in the mix we have The Nun, which will likely inspire a couple more sequels that’ll only make this timeline harder to piece together. Oh, and we haven’t even gotten into all the Conjuring Universe short films on YouTube.
Honestly, though, maybe I’m overanalyzing the chronological order of this cinematic universe. All you really need to remember is that Annabelle is a possessed doll who’s kept safely locked away in the basement of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are only in the film briefly, passing the torch to their young daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace). On a business trip, the Warrens leave Judy in the care of babysitter Mary (Madison Iseman), who knows better than to snoop around in a room full of haunted artifacts. Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife), meanwhile, makes the age-old horror movie mistake of poking her nose where it doesn’t belong and unleashes Annabelle.
To the film’s credit, even though Daniela makes some unbelievably foolish choices, she isn’t written as a clichéd bimbo or stereotypical mean girl. Writer/director Gary Dauberman’s screenplay gives her a legitimate reason for being curious about the Warrens’ house, which makes leeway for some solid character development. The main trio of actresses is where the film finds its redemption. Grace in particular continues her streak of stellar work in the horror genre on the heels of Lifetime’s The Bad Seed and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. Before even turning 13, Grace has already played a young Tonya Harding, a young Carol Danvers, and a young Sabrina Spellman. Whenever she’s given center stage in a film like Gifted, Grace never fails to shine and it likely won’t be long until we’re comparing her to Jodie Foster.
Where Annabelle Comes Home works on a character and acting level, it’s the terror element that could’ve been kicked up a notch. After three movies, we know Annabelle’s tricks and whenever we do get something new, like a CGI werewolf, it’s not especially exhilarating. On top of that, it’s become clear by this point in the Conjuring franchise that the body count is never going to skyrocket, which subtracts from much of the dread. Sure, we don’t want to see these characters die, but we do want to fear for their lives. This film is less about scaring the audience and more about having fun in a creepy setting. On that basis, Annabelle Comes Home is a quality popcorn movie, but anyone who wants to be seriously frightened is better off rewatching Us or waiting for Midsommar.