The latest entry in the Conjuring franchise is in theaters now. Check out how Annabelle Comes Home connects with the rest of the series--according to the movie's writer and director himself--as well as whether there's a post-credits scene to stick around in the theater for. Read on to find out what we thought, and give us your assessment in the comments below.
The Conjuring universe is undoubtedly one of the most consistent franchises in horror movie history, and the latest entry, Annabelle Comes Home, doesn't break that trend. The third Annabelle spin-off is reliably scary, brimming with tense atmosphere and jarring jump scares, with excellent performances from its small cast and several intriguing additions to Conjuring lore. For those who enjoy Conjuring movies, Annabelle Comes Home is yet another predictably fun, popcorn-throwing scare fest.
The third Annabelle movie takes place after the first two (2014's Annabelle, a spin-off/prequel to the first Conjuring movie, and 2017's Annabelle: Creation, which was a prequel to that). Where exactly this movie falls within the larger Conjuring timeline--before or after the main Conjuring movies, for example--isn't made totally clear in the film itself, but it doesn't exactly matter, either.
In its opening scenes, Annabelle Comes Home revisits the moments from the first Conjuring movie that spawned the whole spin-off series, when Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their roles as horror's most wholesome couple) take possession of the Annabelle doll from the young women it had been terrorizing. The movie takes several moments here to clarify exactly what the doll is capable of: Annabelle isn't evil herself, or even possessed by a spirit or demon; the doll is simply a "conduit" or "beacon" to which evil is drawn.
The scares begin in the opening scenes, although ACH is also self-aware enough to play with audiences' expectations, sometimes sidestepping obvious jump scare opportunities, often to inflict them with double the impact a few moments later. But after a brief introduction to the Warrens and the twisted lore of Annabelle herself, the familiar characters and elements take a backseat as the film enters its main act.
If you're expecting a movie all about the Warrens, you might be disappointed to learn that Annabelle Comes Home actually primarily follows their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace), her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), and Mary Ellen's mischievous friend Daniella (Katie Sarife). The Warrens leave Judy in Mary Ellen's care, but when Daniella arrives to snoop around their infamous artifact room--well, you can probably figure out what happens, if not from the trailer then simply from knowing how these things play out.
Annabelle Comes Home is hopelessly predictable, but that's not a bad thing here. Like the rest of the Conjuring series, it's simply incredibly well made horror movie comfort food. It doesn't challenge your expectations or throw in any shocking twists; it simply sets up various monsters, ghosts, ghouls, and other threats, throws them at the characters, and relishes in their terror. The centrifuge of its setting is a literal room full of evil objects--what else could it be besides Night at the Conjuring Museum?
The endlessly repeated setup goes something like this: 1. Object moves on its own, 2. Character tip-toes around as slowly as humanly possible until a suitable amount of tension has been built, and 3. The threat is finally revealed, and it's all-out horror for a few moments. And it's so predictable that, should you watch ACH in a theater with a lively audience, the crowd's shrieks will usually be half laughter as well. There's undeniable fun in the knowledge of what's coming when floorboards start creaking and glasses of milk hurl themselves to the ground, not to mention catharsis in the payoff.
It's almost a prerequisite for Conjuring movies to introduce various spooky threats that might someday be spun off into their own franchises, from Annabelle herself to The Conjuring 2's Nun and Crooked Man. Annabelle Comes Home adds to this tradition with The Ferryman, whose funereal coins seem to pile up all over the Warrens' house, the haunted Samurai armor seen in the Warrens' artifact room in prior movies, and more--I won't spoil them all.
Annabelle Comes Home works largely due to its smart writing and skilled direction from Gary Dauberman (writer of the previous Annabelle movies, The Nun, It and It Chapter 2, the unfortunately just-canceled Swamp Thing show, and more). But the movie's three lead actresses really carry the whole thing on their shoulders. The young Grace plays her often sad role with subtlety and skill--she's bullied at school due to her parents' profession, and the actress perfectly conveys the pain of being a kid at that age who doesn't fit in. Iseman is the iconic innocent horror movie teenage girl, all bubblegum and shrieks. Sarife's Daniella could have easily become a frustrating force in the plot, as her role is mostly to make bad decisions like infiltrating the artifact room and opening Annabelle's case. But thanks to smart writing and Sarife's complex performance, Daniella is a sympathetic character whose actions make sense, even if they're not well-thought-out.
Annabelle Comes Home has just the right mix of horror and humor, predictable structure and shocking jump scares, terrifying ghouls and relatable characters that a scary summer blockbuster should. It doesn't break the mold--Midsommar, this is not--but it's not trying to. And if you're a fan of the Conjuring series, you'll walk out of the theater satisfied.