HomeMoviesAnnabelle Comes Home Review: A Fresh Return to The Conjouring Universe

Annabelle Comes Home Review: A Fresh Return to The Conjouring Universe

Photo Courtesy Warner Bros.

Written by Tom Moore

Annabelle Comes Home attempts to bring viewers into the home of the Conjuring universe and break the mediocre cycle the series has been going through. Frankly, outside of the main-line Conjuring films and Annabelle: Creation, the series actually hasn’t proved its worth. Recent spin-offs, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona, have been incredibly lackluster and created some doubt on whether the Conjuring Universe has strong enough legs to stand on. So, the real question is: does Annabelle’s latest outing give fans the scares they so desperately crave and start to erase any doubt that the series has lost its luster? Well, yes and no.

Frankly, Annabelle Comes Homes doesn’t re-invent its formula enough to be a fresh entry and even the efforts made by writer/director Gary Dauberman to create an eerie atmosphere and utilize the foreground and background are constantly bogged down by repetitiveness. Most of the scares are built up through characters walking down dark hallways in complete silence until a jump scare rudely undercuts all the peace and quiet. Especially in the film’s third act, these kinds of sequences are pretty much just one after another and eventually the scares became predictable and less and less scary as the film goes on.

Like I said before, though, Dauberman definitely does his best to create atmosphere and moments that up the levels of creepiness past what more recent installments have brought. Seeing those afflicted by The Ferryman, a new addition to the series, lurking in the shadows or seeing some things move and change in the background was great. Even having everything take place in one area made you feel a little trapped.

Even though I do wish there were eventually a point where the house turned into a sort of maze, even if it’s a little cliché, just to emphasize Annabelle’s power and how trapped the girls are, there’s still enough effort put in to show how tight Annabelle’s grip is through camera and audio work. There’s a great sequence where one of the girls is watching TV and starts to investigate a noise, but the audio begins to change from what’s happening on the TV to an audio log talking about The Ferryman. The change happens so seamlessly and it’s one of the defining scenes that’s a true Conjuring moment.

Honestly, what impressed me the most about Annabelle Comes Home and what differentiated it from the more mediocre entries is how much detail is put into the characters and the world-building for the Warrens’ artifact room. Watching this film is almost like watching The Conjuring 2.5 as the hints and details about the new horrors in the artifact room and the great characters make it feel right at home with James Wan’s vision for the series. This is likely because of Wan’s return to help Dauberman pen the screenplay for Annabelle Comes Home and his influence can be immensely felt here.

Rather than solely focusing on Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, the film actually focuses on their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), who shares the same intrigue and intuition about the supernatural as her parents. I loved Grace’s performance here and it feels just as easy to connect to Judy’s struggle with how people perceive her because of her parent’s profession and even her intrigue for the supernatural. She’s not necessarily scared of ghosts or the dead, but more afraid of the evil spirits that haunt her. It’s easily one of the best performances of the series and another example of why Grace is someone to keep a closer eye on in the future.

There are also some other great performances from the two other female leads that make the scares–even the more obvious ones–more effective. With Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and Katie (Daniela Rios), they’re not as disposable as they normally would be and add some interesting emotional depth. It was cool to see Mary Ellen see the Warrens as normal, for the most part, and it was kind of nice to have Katie have an emotional stake in the situation as well as a solid arc. Both Iseman and Rios really sell the scares with their performances and there’s a good amount of effort that makes them more than just side characters. The only weak link is the boyfriend character, Bob (Bob Palmeri), as he seems to only exist to service a running gag. The whole, “Bob’s got balls,” joke fell incredibly flat and is forced to create humor that really wasn’t needed.

Annabelle Comes Homes has also reignited my interest in what else the Conjuring universe can offer with the new spirits and artifacts the film offers. The designs are intriguing and even most of their backstories are left in the dark so if they ever get their own films, there’s more to explore.

Personally, the Ferryman would be an interesting story to explore because of the character’s design and simple story. The haunted Japanese armor would be cool to explore as a supernatural, Japanese Conjuring movie just sounds awesome on paper, and even the Feely/Meely board game sequence was pretty suspenseful because I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, the entire sequence of Katie going through the room was very reminiscent of the cellar scene in The Cabin in the Woods and just seeing what Ed and Lorraine had in the room made me immediately intrigued into what their stories were.

Personally, I kind of wish the bloody bride was La Llorona just so there would be some kind of payoff for that film being in the Conjuring Universe and also seeing the entire CGI bloodhound just felt out of place here. Annabelle is also a little under-utilized and there were times that I almost forgot that she was in the film because of how little we see of her. While her presence can definitely be felt and that could be what Wan and Dauberman were going for, I think there maybe could’ve been a little more time put into the connection between her and Judy. There’s actually a great moment where the real Annabelle doll is shown in a short moment that I thought was very clever and funny.

The ending was also very surprising, as it was comforting and ends up being a very touching tribute for Lorraine, as she passed back in April. Rather than end on something suspenseful or scary, Annabelle Comes Home offers a more positive outlook on its supernatural aspects. Lorraine’s final speech to Katie is very touching and it shows why the Warrens are truly the heart and soul of this franchise. I think that this more positive take is a great way to pay tribute to Lorraine and to have a more unexpected kind of ending.

At the end of day, it’s easy to look at Annabelle Comes Home as just another movie in the Conjuring Universe, but I would actually implore viewers to look a little deeper. The effort from Dauberman, Wan, and everyone else involved definitely sets it apart from the rest of the series and I found it to be an incredibly entertaining ride from start to finish. The fact that I’m still interested to see more is indicative of how well the film creates intrigue with such little information about its haunted artifacts. Even as I’ve been writing this, I can already feel this itch to see it again and that’s never happened before with anything from the Conjuring universe.

Annabelle Comes Home is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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