The third entry in the ANNABELLE series, which is part of the CONJURING universe, is ANNABELLE COMES HOME. This is less a consistent vision and more a horror compilation, as Gary Dauberman’s effort swings for the fences. The 2019 picture is somehow the seventh outing in the CONJURING franchise and it feels properly like an ode to Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Like a late night talk show, ANNABELLE COMES HOME populates itself with special guests and runs a kind of horror gauntlet with the doll playing host. Dauberman’s screenplay is only fixed in terms of stars, but even then he rounds through a few of them while dishing out ostensibly random atrocities to conquer.
After a preface that finds Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) taking the Annabelle doll as part of their haunted collection, we learn that their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) needs a babysitter. The Warrens are going out, which puts Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) to the gig. She has a nosy friend (Katie Sarife), plus a boy (Michael Cimino) likes her.
You can chart what happens. The nosy friend wants in the Warren’s room of haunted objects. We learn the reason later, but it’s boilerplate. She is not rewarded for her snooping or her persistence, but the movie takes off in a few different directions as some of the greatest hits fly out of the room.
Early in ANNABELLE COMES HOME, Lorraine makes a clear distinction about the doll. The dead are drawn to it, which accounts for negative energy. That later leads to the arrival of more than a few supernatural things, including a big stupid ghost dog, a bride and a few odds and ends.
The ghost dog chases Cimino’s character for some reason, while Sarife’s character is predominantly tasked with the most captivating plot strand. Her guilt is worth exploring, but ANNABELLE COMES HOME mostly deals with overt stuff. That means she gets stalked by spine-chilling ghosts and sees her immediate future in a TV screen.
The main event is the daughter of Ed and Lorraine, who knows all about her parents’ dealings and has a nose for the supernatural. She sees things and is shadowed by the titular doll. Some of her best moments involving a revolving colour light apparatus in her room or some spooky interactions with a knife-wielding bride.
ANNABELLE COMES HOME is about on par with the rest of the doll-based series in terms of quality, sound design, set design, and so forth. Most people know what they’re getting with these movies. But Dauberman does betray the playbook sporadically, if only to let the doll slip to the backdrop in its own movie. The ensuing tizzy of jump scares and background bumps is palatable if mediocre fare.