Aside from a couple of poorly received entires, The Conjuring franchise has been box office gold. Arguably it’s one of the more successful shared filmr-verses outside of Marvel. Even the critically underwhelming The Nun qualified as a box office hit. But recently released Annabelle Comes Home is now the seventh movie in the series, including The Curse of La Llorona. And it’s technically Annabelle’s fourth big screen appearance. Does the little doll – and the series – have many more scares built into it?
In 1968, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren retrieve Annabelle, an old doll that has served as a conduit for an unnatural spirit. To prevent the haunted toy from influencing other cursed objects in their artifact room, they lock it in special case. Four years later, the Warrens ask high school student, Mary Ellen, to babysit their daughter, Judy overnight. But when Mary Ellen’s curious friend, Daniela, comes over and unlocks Annabelle’s case, she unleashes the demonic entity and every haunted artifact in the Warren house.
Annabelle Comes Home Plays Like a Greats Hits Compilation
Writers Gary Dauberman and James Wan strike horror gold with a simple premise. But it’s a premise that fans have probably wanted since the Warrens first gave us a tour of their artifact room in The Conjuring. It’s actually an idea that’s not all that different from the Goosebumps movie. What if every haunted object in that room came to life? Early in Annabelle Comes Home, Dauberman and Wan establish that Annabelle can influence other spirits. It’s a fun horror scene – swirling mist and cemetery gates – that channels the best of the franchise.
Instead, we get a myriad of fresh movie monsters haunting the screen.
From that point onward, Annabelle Comes Home delves into several mythologies that probably wouldn’t warrant their own standalone movie. It allows Dauberman, also directing, to rely less heavily on a character that’s already scared audiences for three movies. Instead, we get a myriad of fresh movie monsters haunting the screen. In particular, a haunted wedding gown and ‘The Ferryman’ deliver some of the best scares. Even the simple sound of coins dropping on the floor elicit some white-knuckling suspense. And if you think you’re going to be disappointed by vintage Milton Bradley game, Feeley Meeley, just wait for it.
Annabelle Still Scares In Spite of Some Recycled Frights
Sooner or later, even the best movie franchise begin to feel familiar. In his directorial debut, Dauberman largely succeeds in replicating the scares formula that has worked so well in The Conjuring universe. Without a doubt, Annabelle Comes Home has several well-executed scares. In addition, Dauberman ratchets up the suspense to an expected fever-pitch with his climax. Of course, effective or not, this doesn’t mean there isn’t an air of familiarity hanging over everything. Nothing in Annabelle Comes Home matches either of The Conjuring movies. One also sense the franchise grasping a little at other horror tropes from the ‘babysitter in peril’ story to peering under bedsheets.
…Dauberman ratchets up the suspense to an expected fever-pitch with his climax.
Nevertheless, Dauberman and Wan understand that horror movies work best when you care about the characters. In this regard, Annabelle Comes Home takes the time to introduce and flesh out its likeable characters. Even the ‘bad girl’ friend, Daniela, subverts expectations and grows into something more than an overused plot device. With likeable characters, you’re given something to invest in with the movie. Taken together with the movie’s slick production values, Annabelle Comes Home still feels like fun popcorn horror in spite of any familiarity.
Fresh Faces Take Over the Franchise With Good Results
If Annabelle Comes Home has a surprise, it’s how little Ed and Lorraine Warren factor into the movie. In fact, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson basically have extended cameos. Fresh faces Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife and McKenna Grace, are tasked with taking over the franchise in the sequel. All three young performers excel with the opportunity. In particular, Sarife impresses as Daniela, elevating what could have felt like a horror movie stereotype into a compelling character. It’s Daniela’s character arc that carries the most emotional weight in the sequel.
Annabelle Comes Home Still Has Some Scares Left
After seven franchise movies, perhaps it’s not surprising that Annabelle Comes Home feels a little too familiar now and then. Though it falls short of either of The Conjuring movies, the sequel improves on Annabelle, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona. There’s enough scares in this well-paced, slickly edited sequel to make it fun popcorn horror for series’ fans. However, it may be time to retire Annabelle and left the next The Conjuring movie go in a new direction.