Annabelle Comes Home has the best concept of any of the movies in the “Conjuring Universe,” but promptly squanders it. Fans of the series know that Annabelle is a haunted doll who is locked in a glass cabinet inside the relic room of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The film is about how, let loose from that case, she opens a spiritual pathway that allows the other cursed items to come to life. That should have been a ton of fun. Instead, the picture just rehashes the same stuff this series has already done multiple times before.
Madison Iseman (Riot Girls) plays Mary Ellen, the teenager babysitting the Warrens' daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) while they're out busting ghosts. Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) comes over, insists on going into the relic room, and, of course, opens Annabelle's cabinet. All manner of spooky things then begin happening in the home, forcing the girls to figure out how to contain the possessed objects before Ed and Lorraine return.
The problem with the Conjuring/Annabelle/Nun movies by now is that the template is so set in stone that no one wants to put any variation on it. All of them have the same tone and rely on the same paranormal elements to create jump scares. Annabelle Comes Home trots them out again: flickering lights, objects that move themselves, a creature that spits up black ooze, etc. We've seen these cliches enough times now that their ability to scare is greatly diminished. Increased -- and more creative -- use of the various items the Warrens keep locked away would have amped up the level of fun considerably. New factors, such as a werewolf and a creepy bride, are horror staples, so they fail to register strongly.
Even if the story plays out in a rote manner, good performances keep the movie watchable. Iseman, Grace, and Sarife fully commit to the material, helping to convey the idea that the characters are in genuine peril. A few nice moments of humor can be found scattered throughout, as well. Wilson and Farmiga are essentially just bookends, popping up briefly at the beginning and end for franchise continuity purposes.
Annabelle Comes Home has the ingredients to be an effective supernatural chiller. What it needed was for someone to come in with a fresh take, as well as the courage to implement it. Writer/director Gary Dauberman plays it too safe.
Annabelle Comes Home will be released on DVD and Blu-ray October 8. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided a complimentary copy for the purposes of this review.
There are several decent supplementary features on the Blu-ray, starting with a three-part behind-the-scenes documentary. Each of the segments is devoted to a different element from the film: the Ferryman character, a Bloody Bride, and a werewolf. Combined, this runs about eleven minutes.
“The Artifact Room and the Occult” is a trip through the Warrens' room, with a spotlight on several notable objects inside it. “The Light and the Love” is about Ed and Lorraine, highlighting their love story amid the hazards of their spooky profession. Both run under five minutes and are mostly promotional in nature, although fans of the series will enjoy them nonetheless.
Finally, there are eleven minutes of deleted scenes, including an underwhelming alternate ending. The finale actually used in the movie is far more effective.
out of four
Annabelle Comes Home is rated R for horror violence and terror. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.