Six years ago, The Conjuring concluded with an ominous shot inside the Warrens’ room of haunted artefacts – chief among them the sinister doll called Annabelle. While there’s been two Annabelle spinoffs since – the awful Annabelle and the entirely-decent Annabelle: Creation – both were prequels, failing to pay off on the closing scene’s promise.
Annabelle Comes Home finally delivers. Opening with the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) taking the titular doll home, the film sidesteps their story to focus on their young daughter (Mckenna Grace), her babysitter (Madison Iseman) and, because it’s a horror movie, a couple extra teenagers (Katie Sarife and Michael Cimino). The premise is at once extra and chillingly simple: Annabelle is a beacon for spirits, so strap in for a whole bunch of ghouls and ghosts once she’s unleashed.
It’s a good premise, it runs out of steam over the film’s 100-some minutes. With The Conjuring, James Wan demonstrated that familiar scares could propel a good horror film through technique; specifically, an understanding of space and rhythm. It’s the latter when Annabelle Comes Home director Gary Dauberman falls short, cramming the film with too many scares and not enough tension. Decent, but crying out for some restraint.