You know what movie is pretty good? The Conjuring! You know what other movie is also pretty good, but a little less good? The Conjuring 2! You know what movies stink? All the spinoffs from The Conjuring! When it comes to mainstream horror films, I’ve never fully bought into this franchise, though I do put them above most things Blumhouse puts out, so they’ve still got that going for them. Still, the Annabelle films and The Nun have all just felt like generic supernatural horror movies but, by teasing the connection to The Conjuring, perform that much better than something unrelated to that franchise. In other words, my expectations for Annabelle Comes Home could be described as “Rock Friggin’ Bottom,” but I persisted because I’m so professional. Luckily, that gamble paid off, as what makes this Annabelle film such a delight is that, even without the scares, it’s incredibly charming, thanks to the delightful cast and overall sense of fun to the whole thing, as opposed to other installments attempting to terrify you to your bones.
Remember that scene in The Conjuring when Ed and Lorraine Warren take the creepy Annabelle doll away from those college kids? Well, they take that doll home! But, guess what? Their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) needs a babysitter while they go off to investigate ghouls, leaving the babysitter (Madison Iseman) and her pal (Katie Sarife) to run amok in the relic room. As you can imagine, all sorts of things come to life while the Warrens are out of town, forcing the three girls to confront their biggest fears if they hope to make it out alive and not insane from fear.
Here’s the thing: Annabelle Comes Home doesn’t do anything unexpected in any real way, other than deliver a satisfying haunted house movie. All of the scares are effective and delivered at an appropriate pace, allowing you to catch your breath just enough to then be terrified by the next competently staged sequence. With this being the sixth film in the franchise, it doesn’t settle for one specter, instead giving each girl their own antagonist, while also throwing a few more into the mix. In that regard, it felt a lot like Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, because I am someone who actually kind of likes those Scooby-Doo movies and uses it as a point of reference. Whatever you’re creeped out by, Annabelle Comes Home has got you covered.
What makes Annabelle Comes Home truly feel special is that, with it being the first time we’ve seen Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens in three years, their chemistry reminds us just how much joy comes from watching these characters (based on the real-life Warrens, doi) face terrifying monsters for no reason other than to help others. The pair only have a handful of scenes in the film, but the relationship between the three girls in the house is nearly as compelling. Rather than try to recreate that dynamic, writer/director Gary Dauberman delivers an all-new set of relationships that are truly a delight to watch unfold. Seeing the girls flirt with the cute boy, seeing them explain to each other why they shouldn’t be afraid of ghosts, and seeing them just being there to support one another is arguably more riveting than any of the spooky tomfoolery.
In theory, you’d hope that each of the spinoff films in the franchise offered audiences a different flavor of spooky story, which Annabelle Comes Home absolutely offers. Despite the fact that it is somehow rated R (though I counted one “fuck” and there’s maybe two or three “violent” images), it feels like the perfect gateway film for a burgeoning horror fan. We don’t have to deal with the dread of a family being tormented by Hell Demons or visit a convent inhabited by…another Hell Demon, we just get to see a trio of multi-dimensional characters who you hope make it through the experience. Annabelle Comes Home might not have enough terror to satiate all horror fans, but it delivers a satisfying trip through the darkest corners of the Warrens’ history, allowing audiences to brave the storm knowing these encounters are merely pit stops.
Wolfman Moon Scale