Annabelle Comes Home is the latest installment in James Wan’s Conjuring-verse, the second to come out this year, and the third to center on the titular spirit-channeling plaything. You’d think the haunted antics would be played out by now but there is a lot to recommend here.
A year after Ed and Lorraine Warren (played again by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) acquire the Annabelle doll and place it under glass from a chapel, they have to go out of town on a new case and leave daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) with a babysitter (Madison Iseman) on the weekend before her birthday.
Evil spirits are in the air though everything ought to go according to plan as long as nobody goes in the Warrens’ artifact room, and of course, someone does. Despite all the locks and warning signs, the babysitter Mary Ellen’s friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife), comes over, explores a little and tries to make contact with her dead father who was killed in an accident. She calls out to a presence — any presence — and on the way out leaves Annabelle’s case unlocked. All you-know-what breaks loose.
It’s the dumbest mistake ever that has sunk lesser a film. Annabelle Comes Home, fortunately, isn’t the usual haunting and is crafted just right. The leads are top-notch, including young McKenna Grace, and there is a good deal of empathy for why Daniela does what she does, regardless of the peril it causes. And multiple threats loom.
More mileage is put on the Warrens’ collection than before. We are introduced to paranormal creatures to set up for more spinoffs and a few look intriguing. Safe bets for future films are the ominous Ferryman (who steals souls and places coins over the eyes of victims like a figure from Greek myth) and a possessed wedding dress that turns its wearer homicidal (which happens to one of the girls in the blood-spewing fashion these films are known for). The former even provides a reason for one of the leads to come back.
There is also a werewolf spirit called the Black Shuck, based on an English case the Warrens wrote a nonfiction book about, that wreaks havoc in a dense mist outside the house. A lycanthrope in the series is not the most obvious addition when you consider how hard they are to ground in reality, but it’s a cool idea — as long as the effects and execution are better next time. The monster is a CG creation, reduced to a vaporous phantasm.
Much of the same crew who brings us Swamp Thing on DC Universe headed up this Annabelle sequel. As good as that show is, you know what you’re getting. Executive producer Gary Dauberman wrote and directed from a story by him and James Wan. And it’s clear after seeing the movie Dauberman is not a mere small part of what makes Swamp Thing work. In Annabelle Comes Home, he juggles so much at one time and manages to hold it all together.
She’s not in much of the picture but Vera Farmiga makes up for the ordeal her Godzilla character’s pernicious arrogance inflicts by playing someone actually kind and likable in Lorraine Warren, who provides some council and motherly advice to one of our guilt-ridden protagonists to put a button on things.
Annabelle Comes Home is up there with the year’s other top genre offerings — Brightburn, The Dead Don’t Die. It’s a fine debut for a director who already has impressive credits under his belt as a writer and is far more satisfying than the Child’s Play remake. By the end, you might want more of these. I’d be OK with that.
- Engaging story.
- Believable characters.
- Crowded but contained.
- Visual effects for the Black Shuck.
- Male supporting characters are all fairly worthless.