Proving once and for all that the “Conjuring” cinematic universe works so much better when New Line takes their time to offer something made with care rather than haste, “Annabelle Comes Home” is a third entry in to the spin off that delivers big time. 2014’s “Annabelle” is a distant memory now, as the series has managed to redeem the spin off transforming Annabelle the doll in to a worthwhile villain who brings only death and carnage where ever she is, and we never spend time trying to find out why. She’s merely an instrument for evil and that’s what helps “Annabelle Comes Home” as an entertaining monster movie about evil preying on the weak.
Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren lock the possessed doll in the artifacts room in their house. But when the doll awakens the room’s evil spirits and unleashes them, it soon becomes a pure night of terror for the couple’s 10-year-old daughter Judy, her friends, and their young baby sitter. Now they must figure out how to get Annabelle in to her case before the artifacts are released on the world again. Gary Dauberman’s sequel to the “Annabelle” series feels surprisingly small scale, often watching like a slight, fun detour in the world of the “Conjuring.”
This is probably because Ed and Lorraine Warren appear for the film (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their characters once again) to set up the sequel, and how they acquired Annabelle. Dauberman then switch the formula by making them only tertiary presences in what basically becomes Judy’s tale, as she faces what is undoubtedly a nuclear bomb of the supernatural. We’ve had our fill with origins and exposition with Annabelle; she’s implemented beautifully as this creepy somewhat conniving monster that takes an inexplicable obsession with Judy Warren. McKenna Grace is the perfect actress to headline this spin off as she not only helps open the door wider to this cinematic universe, but also lays the groundwork for her own series of horror films.
Grace is great as always, giving a understated performance as the only daughter of this misunderstood couple who is filled with vulnerability and charm that makes her an inadvertent heroine. Subjected to scrutiny and alienated from her peers, she struggles to find her place in the world, all the while coping with an obvious growing perceptiveness toward the supernatural. Grace presents Judy in a fascinating light as someone who is anxious to be like everyone else, but has to accept that she might not be. Along the way, “Annabelle Comes Home” has a great time with the premise creating a monster mash that feels like an exciting, often creepy amalgam of “The Gate” and 2001’s “Thir13en Ghosts.” And suffice to say Dauberman seems to have fun creating new menaces within the Warrens’ artifact room.
Despite the scale, Dauberman let loose with some great confrontations with ghosts, demons, and assorted monsters, all of whom do battle with Judy and test her resolve with her faith and belief in her parents. “Annabelle Comes Home” is a fun direction (with an excellent soundtrack!) for the somewhat imperfect cinematic universe, and it’s a great horror ride that sets the stage for “The Conjuring 3,” which promises to be dark, heavy, and grim.