REVIEW — “Annabelle Comes Home”
Coming from frequent screenwriter but first-time director Gary Dauberman, Annabelle Comes Home, the third entry in the Annabelle franchise and seventh entry in the greater Conjuring universe, follows the title character, the evil doll Annabelle, as she is taken into the possession of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren and placed in the artifact room in their home under rigid constraints, a locked glass case with a sign displaying: WARNING! POSITIVELY DO NOT OPEN. It isn’t long before the Warrens leave town and this incredibly specific message is ignored, opening up a world of horror for the Warrens’ 10-year-old daughter, Judy, her babysitter, and her babysitter’s best friend, all helmed by Annabelle.
Following the lackluster first entry to the series, Annabelle, and the unexpectedly great sequel, Annabelle: Creation, Annabelle Comes Home falls somewhere in between the two in terms of quality. The pacing sometimes feels clunky, with long stretches of not much happening, and then several big moments coming to fruition all at once. The humor often falls flat, although the audience seemed to enjoy it more than I did, and an added romance plotline feels a bit unnecessary but is ultimately harmless and wholesome, so I don’t mind it as much.
Conversely, it has a lot of great visuals, strong performances (particularly from the incredibly talented 12-year-old Mckenna Grace), and a good sense of tension, aided by the fact that most of the story takes place in one night. There are also two non-horror aspects that I was pleasantly surprised by and think greatly enhanced the quality of the entire movie. The first is the perfectly executed feel of the time period. Annabelle Comes Home didn’t have any title cards telling the audience it took place during the ‘70s and it didn’t need to; the fashion, hairstyles, home decor, music, and color palette spoke for themselves and offered a fantastic sense of immersion into this decade. The local grocery store and the wallpaper in the Warrens’ house, in particular, felt so ‘70s that even I, someone born in 2000, knew exactly when this story took place.
The second is that, even though it is very much a horror movie, Annabelle Comes Home wears its heart on its sleeve. All of the characters care a lot for each other, and their sincerity is apparent from the heart-to-hearts before all of the chaos starts, to the way they risk putting themselves in danger in order to keep each other safe, all the way through to the heartwarming ending. It’s not often that a horror movie comes off feeling very earnest and I think it worked beautifully in this case.