On the surface, the set up for the latest “Annabelle” implies something new. However, as time goes on, it turns into the same old story.
“Annabelle Comes Home,” the seventh movie in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe, again follows the movie-version Warren family, who’re much more entertaining and compelling than their real life fraud counterparts. The movie opens with Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) driving home with the Annabelle doll in their, er, custody. After some freaky moments, the Warrens are able to get the cursed doll back to their artifacts room, where it’s secured in a holy case, and life seems to settle to normal.
As life goes on, the Warrens plan a business trip and leave their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of a babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Despite dealing with the paranormal regularly, the Warren’s home and neighborhood is pretty straightforward suburbia. However, Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) eventually comes over to hang out and has an interest in the Warren’s case files. Unfortunately, through a series of events, she lets loose the paranormal entities in the Warren’s artifacts room, including Annabelle.
“The Conjuring” universe has had its fair share of ups and downs. For example, 2017’s “Annabelle: Creation” was pretty good, while 2018’s “The Nun” was a disaster. “Annabelle Comes Home, meanwhile, is somewhere in between.
What works about the latest “Annabelle” is its set-up. The movie’s approach in making a group of young characters seemingly cut-off from the rest of the world and having to face an evil force alone gave the flick a fun 80s vibe.
Seeing the lead characters in this one have to survive in peril was pretty entertaining and gave the movie something other than the paranormal investigator route that has populated other flicks in the series. As a whole, the movie’s strongest sequences are those related to the characters.
It does help that the young cast does respectable work in this regard, too. Iseman, Sarife and Grace are solid here, channeling some of that classic 80s style mentioned earlier. Sarife especially does some good work when more of her backstory is revealed.
Here’s where the issue comes into play, though. Character moments should probably be somewhat of a lower priority than actually setting up the horror element in a horror movie. Unfortunately, “Comes Home” is another feature so reliant on jump scares.
The Annabelle doll does look creepy, but it’s really the only thing with a unique design the audience can get a good look at. There are some creative ghouls featured here, except the film is either too dark or the camera shifts away too fast because it was only there for a jump scare. As a result, a viewer isn’t able to appreciate the look of these creatures as much.
The movie features a hell hound, a being known as the Ferryman, a haunted bride and the cursed ghost of a samurai. Yet, all of them are rather hard to see, so while a person may be initially shocked, the viewer isn’t given time or a good look for the creep-factor to linger.
This isn’t to say the movie completely lacked in building a creepy atmosphere, there were some good visual moments adding value in that department. Yet so many times the movie fell into a routine of a scene being completely quiet with a character wandering around an area, and as a viewer, you’re just waiting for the jump. When it happens, the moment is usually then over quickly.
Had “Annabelle Comes Home” dialed back the jump scares and just been an all out smorgasbord of monsters and spirits wreaking havoc that these young characters had to deal with, it likely would have been better. This horror approach just gets old too fast, though, especially since some of this franchise is already built on the whole jump scare style. 2.5 out of 5.