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Annabelle has officially made it back home, but she’s done it in a film that’s far from the best in The Conjuring universe. While not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, the latest Annabelle film is the very definition of average.
The movie comes with its ups and downs, but it doesn’t find a way to stand out from the relatively crowded horror space. It has some decent scares and it does a pretty decent job of building tension, but the story is quite generic and it doesn’t feel like it pushes the storied Conjuring universe forward in any major way.
Rather, it just feels like the creators made another movie because it was time to make another one, not because they have a good story to tell.
One thing the movies in The Conjuring universe seem to do well is building tension. They find a way to keep you wondering when the next scare is going to happen throughout the movie. Annabelle Comes Home, even with its flaws, manages to keep you on edge at all times.
The movie manages to squeeze in some pretty enjoyable scares that certainly made some of the other moviegoers in the theater scream more than a few times. Generally, I don’t jump from scares, but there was actually one in the movie that got me good, which is always fun.
Gary Dauberman, who’s written previous Annabelle films as well as IT and The Nun, actually makes his directorial debut in this film, and the direction of the film is definitely one of the better points. The timing of the scares in the film are executed will by subverting the viewer’s expectations. When you thought there was going to be a jump scare there often wasn’t, with one coming later after you’ve let your guard down.
The film manages to find some comic relief through Bob, the romantic interest of babysitter Mary Ellen (played by Madison Iseman). He’s quite entertaining, and he fills the role of easing the tension. His story also comes to a satisfying conclusion, which is always nice.
Unlike the other Annabelle films, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga actually appear in the film as Ed and Lorraine Warren, which is definitely a positive, as the dynamic between them is one of the more interesting parts of The Conjuring films. Both do a good job, through the beginning and end of the movie.
The biggest issue with Annabelle Comes Home is simply that it was neither scary enough nor entertaining enough. The story didn’t really grab me, and while some of the jump scares are timed well, the film relies on them too heavily. There’s tension, but that tension never crosses the line into full-fledged fear.
The monsters in the movie are pretty ridiculous (yeah, there are monsters in the movie). There’s a demon creature who I assume is supposed to be scary, but isn’t. There’s a werewolf thing who appears fully capable of committing murder but is all too easily thwarted.
But it’s not even about how bad the monsters look, but the fact that they’re in the film at all. What makes The Conjuring movies interesting is the subtle use of scary things, rather than just having a demon come out and attack one of the main characters. It feels like these monsters came out of nowhere, and they just don’t feel like they belong in the movie.
While Annabelle is the titular character, she’s not actually possessed so she never comes alive—but she appears in random places throughout the film. If she’s not alive, how is she moving? Are the spirits picking her up and placing her in Judy’s (the Warren’s daughter, played by McKenna Grace) bed? It feels like the doll is only thrown into scenes because the movie is named after it, and not because it has any reason to be there.
The film takes place almost entirely in Ed and Lorraine Warren’s house, which is where the “Comes Home” moniker comes from. The film focuses around the couple’s occult room that’s filled with various spooky objects, including the titular Annabelle doll. The doll, which the film makes very clear isn’t possessed, serves as a conduit for evil spirts. Unless she’s locked away in her church-glass case, spirits will come pouring in.
For fans of the franchise, getting to spend almost two hours exploring the terror that is the Warren’s house is exciting and interesting, but for everyone else, it feels a bit like your standard haunted house horror movie that we’ve seen a million times before.
All in all, Annabelle Comes Home is a perfectly watchable horror film with some decent tension and a few well-earned jump scares (and some unearned ones, too). But it’s not overly exciting and the story doesn’t do enough to really grab you.
The film is the very definitely of average, which for fans of The Conjuring might make it good enough to watch, but for everyone else, it’s skippable.