Where is this all headed? The Conjuring Universe has been around for years, but I still have no idea what’s the grand plan. Perhaps that’s for the better rather than knowing ahead of time what to expect. The problem with that is when each new installment arrives and does essentially the same tricks as the last film to varying degrees of success, you’re left wondering if we’re going in circles or progressing forward.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The new film this time, Annabelle Comes Home, is yet another spooky house yarn but with slightly more fun. Here, the film opens with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) retrieving the Annabelle doll from a home whose residents are implied to have witnessed the dolls supernatural powers. On their way back to their home, we get re-introduced to the doll’s ability to conjure (Ha!) the dead. The Warrens barely make it home with their lives intact before locking the doll away in a glass case… and the doll was never heard from again!
But no really, shenanigans eventually ensue to allow for Annabelle’s escape. But before we get there, we meet our potential victims. For the Warrens, who are all over the marketing material for the film, are absent for most of the runtime as their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) is left in the care of babysitter Mary (Madison Iseman, Jumanji). Grace is quite sympathetic in the role, as Judy has zero friends in school due to the creepy reputation of her parents. This is illustrated with Judy’s upcoming birthday party, which no one has yet to confirm they’re attending except Mary and Mary’s outspoken best friend Daniela (Katie Sarife). But in the meantime, Daniela joins Mary in babysitting Judy.
While Daniela is sassy and outgoing on the surface, her character is actually hiding a more tragic backstory. It’s for that reason why it’s somewhat understandable for her to do what she does later in the film because without that backstory we’d be dealing with the dumbest decision in movie history. And even with it, it’s still pretty dumb. This segues into a cornucopia of apparitions to terrorize the teens. This could easily get boring, and at times things do get a bit perfunctory, but what keeps us somewhat interested is that the characters are decently defined and likable. This is of course damning with faint praise, but this is a film that is faintly entertaining.
This would not be the case if the creatures we see here were more menacing. Instead, most of them will probably come off as cheap knockoffs from better movies. There’s even a goofy looking wolf that makes an appearance, looking as if it came fresh off the set of Space Jam.
Overall, in a summer that has been subpar, Annabelle Comes Home lands right on the average of this season’s offerings. It’s more of the same of what we’ve seen from this universe, and what we’ve seen so far has been ordinary with a few exceptions. But there’s just enough creepy imagery and humor to keep most audiences satiated through the runtime. Here’s hoping we can move pass the spooky house phase of these movies into more exciting fare. If this doesn’t all lead to some ambitious crossover, where the Nun smacks La Llorona across the skull with a bible, I’m going to be very disappointed.