Annabelle is back. That’s right. The latest iteration in the seemingly endless line of creepy horror movie dolls returned to theatres in “Annabelle Comes Home.” The seventh film in the “Conjuring” franchise was sadly unable to conjure up any semblance of a captivating horror movie experience. While mildly entertaining, the film lacked originality and any interesting storylines it did contain were underdeveloped and lost in the clutter of a rushed ending.
The film starts off with paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren bringing home a haunted Annabelle doll that has been seen in several of the prior “Conjuring” movies and placing her in a protective glass case that prevents the doll from haunting their home. The film then fast forwards a year and shows the Warrens with their daughter, Judy.
After a tough day at school where Judy is bullied for her parents’ profession, she comes home with Mary Ellen, Judy’s babysitter, while Ed and Lorraine are away. Mary Ellen’s friend Daniele shows up to help Mary Ellen and spend time with Judy but also takes opportunities to sneak around the house trying to find the Warrens’ ghost artifacts, hoping one of them will help her contact her late father.
In the process, she takes the titular Annabelle out of her case, unleashing the doll and the other demons in the house on herself as well as Judy, Mary Ellen and her crush, Bob Palmeri, who shows up to talk with Mary Ellen. The girls are eventually able to get Annabelle back into her case and stop the ghosts from attacking them and the house.
“Annabelle Comes Home” hits you right off the bat with some major horror movie clichés. In the opening sequence, after Ed and Lorraine Warren pick up the “Annabelle” doll, they are seen in their car driving home. It’s nighttime, foggy and, naturally, they get lost. Classic scary movie setting. Then their car breaks down, of course, and it just so happens to occur in front of a cemetery, which is almost too fitting and a far too perfect setup for some ghosts to appear while Ed is fixing the car.
Ten minutes in and it already feels like every other horror film out there. The setup to the main events of the movie is very déjà vu-esque as it involves a teenage girl coming over to babysit a child while the parents are away. Even a horror movie non-aficionado is probably thinking, “I feel like I’ve seen this before.”
Most of the characters in the film also are not strong or original. The babysitter, May Ellen (played by Madison Iseman), and the little girl, Judy Warren (played by McKenna Grace), are the main protagonists of the story along with Mary Ellen’s friend Daniele Rios (played by Kate Sarife) and her crush, Bob Palmeri (played by Michael Cimino). Mary Ellen is a likable but rather generic and boring character. Judy Warren has potential at the beginning of the movie, with her ability to see dead people and her getting bullied at school due to her parents’ work as ghost hunters. However, this gets pushed to the side for most of the movie.
Her bullying problem gets almost instantly solved at the end when everyone comes to her birthday party, and her ability to see ghosts only really comes into play once. Bob is a very unnecessary character who is thrown in essentially to add a weak romance storyline to the film. The scene where he comes over playing the guitar poorly outside the Warrens’ house was supposed to be an endearing and charming scene but came across as awkward and creepy.
Daniele Rios had by far the most interesting personality and back story. She’s a bold and charismatic “bad girl” who also has a sweet caring side to her, which is seen when she comforts Judy. Her history is also revealed throughout the film, as the viewer learns that she was the driver in the car accident that killed her father. Her desire to use the Warrens’ “paranormal room” to communicate with her father is an interesting storyline but gets overshadowed by her excessive and annoying nosiness as she snoops around the Warrens’ house.
Daniele’s nosiness is what leads to the main event of the movie: unlocking Annabelle’s display case and releasing her spirit, as well as the spirits of all the other haunted objects in the room. Things start off slow, with objects being misplaced or a glass falling off a table. But as night falls, the demons become more and more dangerous, threatening the lives of the main characters.
Annabelle is the cause of the events in the movie, but the characters are haunted by an absurd amount of different paranormal creatures, the highlights being the dead people with coins over their eyes and the future-predicting TV, while the lowlights involve a heavily CGI giant ghost dog and a seemingly random bride with a knife.
Each demon represents an object in the Warrens’ haunted room from their investigations. While they provide a few good scares and are somewhat entertaining, it felt too cluttered for any of them to be truly interesting. They each had a back story that was glossed over because the filmmakers tried to fit too much in a short amount of time.
It was as if they tried to cram six different scary movies into one. This overcrowding also prevented other storylines from being explored in depth and made the Annabelle doll feel like a less significant part of the movie than she should have been in a movie literally called “Annabelle Comes Home.”
The movie does do a good job of building suspense and causing tense moments but relied too heavily on jump scares that didn’t really lead to anything. Often when one of the characters was caught in a scary moment with a ghost, the camera cut away and, all of a sudden, the character was fine and somehow magically got away.
The movie’s ending was also unsatisfying and rushed. Once Judy finds out that the Annabelle doll was let out of her display case, she announces that they need to find it and put it back in the case. After this is mentioned, it feels like they are able to get hold of it pretty quickly with only a few obstacles, one of them being Mary Ellen finding the doll being held by her own duplicate with coins over her eyes.
She struggles to get the doll free, then the ghost start screaming and the camera cut away to find that she somehow just got the doll away. After that, it isn’t long before Mary Ellen, Judy and Daniele get the doll back into the case and everything is immediately over and all right. It just seemed too easy.
Overall, “Annabelle Comes Home” is an okay film at best. It has its moments, but the filmmakers choose to pack in as many monsters and jump scares instead of creating interesting storylines and characters.
Annabelle did, in fact, come home, but the movie didn’t quite hit home.