Annabelle Comes Home starts when Annabelle, literally, comes home with the Warrens. Lorraine and Ed pick up the doll from the nurses from the first Conjuring film and on the way home, their car breaks down in front of a cemetery, and Lorraine is visited by hundreds of spirits. A priest is waiting for them when they get home, and he blesses the Annabelle doll. Lorraine, still shaken from the encounter at the cemetery, decides this is not enough, and they seal the doll into a box made of chapel glass. “The evil is contained,” Lorraine concludes.
A year later, the Warrens go out for the evening and leave daughter Judy with Mary Ellen, a sweet, responsible teenager. Mary Ellen’s friend, Daniela, comes over uninvited. Daniela is a little bit of a troublemaker, who is obsessed with what the Warrens do. It turns out that Daniela lost her father recently, and desperately wants to reach out to him. When Judy and Mary Ellen are outside, Daniela sneaks into the Warrens’ artifact room and unlocks Annabelle’s cabinet. The smoke alarm goes off, and she leaves the artifact room quickly. Annabelle’s case is left unlocked, thus letting the evil out.
It is not just Annabelle who is stalking the girls that night. As established at the beginning of the film, Annabelle is a “beacon for other spirits.” A cursed wedding dress floats around; coins that were given to The Ferryman appear over the eyes of ghosts; a werewolf made of mist stalks the front yard. And Annabelle appears in random places throughout the house.
Annabelle Comes Home is loaded with scares – and not just jump scares. There is an overall feeling of dread laced throughout the movie. Many of the scares come from other spirits – not Annabelle. It kind of feels like we are getting a preview of what the next handful of films in The Conjuring universe will be. That’s not to say Annabelle herself isn’t scary – the scene with her in Judy’s bed is simple and effective.
The three leading girls – Mckenna Grace as Judy, Madison Iseman as Mary Ellen, and Katie Sarife as Daniela – are delightful. They have great chemistry together, and don’t fall into the typical horror movie stereotypes (although Mary Ellen and would-be boyfriend Bob have a nauseatingly sweet, shy, nervous relationship). Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson reprise their roles of Lorraine and Ed Warren, and while they are certainly not “starring” in this film, they are definitely more than a cameo.
Gary Dauberman, who wrote the first two Annabelle films, as well as The Nun, stepped into the director role for the first time on this film, and he did a great job. He has lived in The Conjuring universe for so long, he really knew the characters, the story, and what audiences want.
My only complaint about Annabelle Comes Home is that it is a little slow in the second act. Scenes of the girls slowly, slowly creeping down hallways or waiting to find out what made that noise could easily have been trimmed down. It lost momentum, but it picked up again in the third act, with an ending crammed with action and scares. The final scenes were a little saccharine, but it didn’t ruin the overall enjoyment of the film.
Annabelle Comes Home is a simple story with strong actors and meaty scares. It’s easily the best film in the Annabelle franchise.