2019, R, Directed by Gary Dauberman, Warner Brothers/New Line Cinema, 106 minutes
Nobody ever expected something as simple as the Annabelle doll would be getting an entire trilogy of films, but here we are. Initially, it seemed like nothing more than desperate cash grab by Warner Brothers, which was still completely true.
But in a strange turn of events, each entry in the spinoff series has gotten better than the one that came before. The first Annabelle just seemed cheesy and completely unnecessary, while Annabelle: Creation added some legitimate scares and helped to build the lore. Annabelle Comes Home however, brings us to a whole new level.
Not Quite a Prequel or a Sequel
Perhaps “Midquel” is the best word to describe this film. We’re reshown the opening prologue to the original Conjuring, where the Warrens first encountered the titular doll. The rest of this film takes place after that prologue, but before they helped the Perron family in Rhode Island.
We see just how difficult it was driving Annabelle back to their home, as the cursed doll was a beacon for other spirits. The real Lorraine Warren continued to claim until her recent death in 2019, that Annabelle was by far the most haunted object she possessed.
It’s quite refreshing to see Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga back as Ed and Lorraine Warren, because we haven’t actually seen them on film since 2016’s The Conjuring 2. They merely play supporting roles, as the film focuses on their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace), her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), and Mary Ellen’s friend Daniella (Katie Sarife).
Judy had previously been a minor background character in the first two Conjuring films, but here we really delve into her point of view, and it’s both interesting, and sympathetic. We see how having semi-famous parents who work in the paranormal affects her life social life at school, resulting in a struggle to adjust and fit in. We’ve known the Warrens and their cases for years now, but this is the first story that tackles the their “celebrity” status and how the rest of their town reacts to them.
All Star Lineup of Cursed Objects
As Ed and Lorraine leave for an overnight trip (presumably to handle a paranormal case), Mary Ellen and Judy attempt to have an uneventful, but fun evening. Danielle invites herself over however, and is fascinated by the Warrens artifact room.
We later learn that the recent death of her father has her trying to reach out to the spirit world, in order to make contact with him. This results in her sneaking into the room itself and doing the one thing Ed constantly warns people not to do, she touches just about everything (including Annabelle).
Being the beacon of other spirits that Annabelle is, an entire horde of malevolent spirits are unleashed upon the three girls and they must fight to contain the evil that was released. In a recent interview, James Wan stated that after introducing the artifact room in the first film, he always wanted to have a story center around it.
That room contains a myriad of fascinating stories that we get to have fun exploring here. If you’re familiar with the real Warrens and their cases, Annabelle Comes Home is ten times more interesting because everything referenced was based on a real case the Warrens worked.
Perhaps the only major issues the film has is that it doesn’t go far enough with these other items. But perhaps these are just the words a crazed fan who wanted to see more Warren cases referenced. There’s also a slight timeline error. This story is meant to take place before the Perron case, but the cursed object from that incident is clearly visible in the artifact room.
In many ways, Annabelle Comes Home feels like the spinoff we should have gotten back in 2014, rendering the other two Annabelle films completely pointless (to be fair Creation was pretty decent). It serves as a brilliant reference to all the work that Ed and Lorraine Warren did over the years, and will hold us over until we get The Conjuring 3 next year!