The Conjuring franchise is now eight films in and it doesn't show signs of slowing. The series has benefitted from the fluid nature of the storytelling. New entries are free to take place in different time periods and focus on different demons and possessed objects. None of those have been as successful as Annabelle, a creepy doll that now gets its third feature film.
Annabelle Comes Home ditches the lore that has bogged down previous entries and instead embraces the haunted house thrills that the franchise has always been best at. What we get here is essentially a teen horror movie that includes a babysitter in peril, a bully, a cute boy, and a kid who has to save everyone. That kid is the daughter of demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). As the film opens, the Warrens are transporting the doll to their home where it is to be placed in a case made from glass from a church so that it can't wreak havoc. Once the doll is safe, they are off on another paranormal case, leaving their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) alone with her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman).
Judy is an outcast at school thanks to her weird parents but Mary Ellen treats her with understanding. It seems like all is well when Mary Ellen's friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) drops by and unlocks the case with Annabelle in it. Daniela's father was killed in a car accident and she believes something in the Warren's basement of artifacts can help her connect to him. While down there, she touches many artifacts that unleash their power. Several of these have made minor appearances in previous Conjuring films and fans of the series will be delighted to finally see the haunted samurai armor that echoes with the howls of its victims and other objects getting their moment. One new creation comes in the form of the Ferryman. It is an effective design that leads to a few good jump scares.
Jump scares are what Annabelle Comes Home is all about and it delivers them frequently. Once things kick off, the Warren house becomes a haunted maze of scares including a haunted board game and a haunted TV. Director Gary Dauberman keeps a steady pace of frights which makes seeing the film in a packed auditorium a must. The film is designed to be a carnival ride. It is a great date movie in that way or one to see with a group of friends. You may not remember the plot but you will all be discussing which scare got you.
Annabelle Comes Home doesn't do much that is new and it doesn't really add anything to the story of the possessed doll. It doesn't seem interested in that and as a result, the film focuses on the fun. It mostly works. The humor is intentional here and a few laughs really work. It is an efficient horror film meant for Friday nights with a full audience.