Review by J.T. Johnson
When the original “Annabelle” was released as a spin-off to “The Conjuring”, it was met with a mixed reaction. It wasn’t the worst film ever made, but it was forgettable. “Annabelle: Creation” then came out and was a marked improvement with a moodier atmosphere that better utilized its demonic centerpiece.
Therefore, I was looking forward to “Annabelle Comes Home” for two reasons. One is that the second film proved that there was life in this series after all and the new movie more directly involves the Warrens, the main heroes from “The Conjuring” films. In reality, the film only features the Warrens in glorified cameos, but this turns out not to be a bad thing as the film focuses on their daughter Judy Warren (Mckenna Grace) instead.
After the Warrens leave on another case, Judy is left in the care of Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), a caring teenaged babysitter who knows about the Warrens’ strange profession. After her best friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) discovers what the Warrens do, she comes over to the house and ends up letting Annabelle out of her case. Soon, strange things start to haunt the Warren household and the three girls have to survive the night and figure out how to deal with the demonic spirits that now threaten their lives.
The movie is a bit slow to get started as it has to set up who our new characters are and their motives for being there. Mary Ellen’s is obvious but Daniela actually has a legitimate reason for wanting to be there and this makes her more than just a character that wants to screw around with all of the Warrens’ possessions in their basement. Thankfully, you really end up liking all three of these girls and want to see them make it through their ordeal.
The performances of the lead actresses is solid all around. Grace is really good as Judy, a character that shares her mother’s unique psychic abilities. She is a troubled girl that doesn’t always like the negative attention that her parents sometimes have to go through, but she takes it in stride while also exposing a legitimately vulnerable side at the same time.
So, where does this movie stack up in “The Conjuring Universe”? Thankfully, it’s filled with quite a few chilling moments once things start to heat up in the house. Like the other films in this series, there is a pretty effective and chilling tone that is always just underneath the surface of the movie.
This is effective at setting up the jump scares when they do happen. The creators of these films, this time led by co-writer and first time director Gary Dauberman, effectively set up their shots and come up with some unique ways to show off their ghosts and demons. The only one that really wasn’t that effective was a rather fake werewolf creature that haunts another character outside the house but beyond that, there are quite a few spirits that may just be worthy of their own spin-off films eventually.
Ultimately, this is not the best film in the series, but I was still surprised by just how effective it was at times. “The Conjuring 3” is now in production and is set to come out next year in September. While fans of the series wait patiently for the next main installment, “Annabelle Comes Home” should be more than enough to hold them over as a clever little haunted house movie.