Movie Review: ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ brings some campy fun to the Conjuring universe

Movie Review: ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ brings some campy fun to the Conjuring universe

Viewers take note: Annabelle Comes Home presents the perfect example of why you shouldn’t keep a room full of cursed objects in your family home.

And especially why you wouldn’t want to keep the titular Annabelle doll, most cursed of all objects, in the center of the cursed object room with only a glass box separating your loved ones from a gateway to Hell. One stiff breeze and the Annabelle demon is out possessing all the other cursed objects that surround it.

The third Annabelle film and seventh (!) entry in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe, Annabelle Comes Home picks up where the first Annabelle movie left off, with Ed (Patrick Wlson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) adopting the Annabelle doll in the early 1970s after it has wreaked all sorts of havoc in California.

“Why don’t you just destroy it?” the Warrens are asked.

No, no, Ed scoffs. Better to take it home, surround it with other paranormal paraphernalia, and take off for the night, leaving all the haunted stuff with preteen daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), and curious friend Daniela (Katie Sarife), who just might want to raise the dead.

Despite the prominence of Wilson and Farmiga in the film’s marketing, 90% of Annabelle Comes Home takes place without them in the family home as the three girls run through the usual haunted house spook-a-thon.

But like earlier films in the Conjuring franchise, the filmmakers have the scare show game down pat: debut director Gary Dauberman, who wrote this film as well as the previous two Annabelle movies, crafts scenes of horror movie tension as effectively as James Wan and others before him. Minutes-long sequences of the girls wandering through a haunted house don’t detract from the story but are the story; calculated chills sent down your spine replace a feature film narrative, and for audiences seeking out a third Annabelle movie, that’s just fine.

But unlike previous Conjuring movies, this one delivers the horror with a gleeful, goofy grin: as the Annabelle demon resurrects a werewolf, a ferryman, a blood-stained bride and even a haunted board game, Annabelle Comes Home evokes the spirit of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps or Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?

That’s a good thing. After the children-killing Curse of La Llorona, the Conjuring series could use a little break from the self-serious stuff, and Annabelle Comes Home provides just the right amount of spooky retro fun, even if it isn’t as scarily effective as the previous movie in the series, Annabelle Creation.

Given the 1970s setting and retro vibe, the babysitter protagonist and mostly single-house setting, Annabelle Comes Home most clearly recalls Ti West’s The House of the Devil, though it’s also not nearly as effective as that modern horror classic.

But it’s effective enough: with the well-engineered scare scenes, a retro-campy attitude, and a trio of engaging lead performances from the three girls, Annabelle Comes Home might be the most fun the Conjuring franchise has delivered yet.

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