Before I start this review, before we hold hands and hop into the human cannonball that is Annabelle Comes Home together, I must admit something to you. I must, unfortunately, pullback the curtain that keeps us comfortably separated. I’ve been writing movie reviews on this website for four years and this is the first time I have ever been given a gift after seeing the movie. The gift was… an Annabelle-themed cupcake. I grabbed one of those suckers so quick and I ate it while taking the 50 escalators down to the Metro at Mazza Gallerie. And, just like that screening of Annabelle Comes Home, I regret nothing.
Like taking a red velvet cupcake to the dome (and throwing away all journalistic credibility!), the newest entry in the Blumhouse Cinematic Universe is a sugar shock straight to the brain. This is the third Annabelle (drink every time you read the name Annabelle) spinoff from The Conjuring franchise, and if you thought they’ve run out of ways to repackage her origin story, you’re dearly mistaken. Annabelle Comes Home adds another layer to the surprisingly rich history of our new favorite haunted doll. While 2014’s Annabelle served as a prequel for The Conjuring, taking us into the twisted cult filled darkness of the late sixties, 2017’s Annabelle: Creation was a prequel to the prequel, dragging us kicking and screaming into the 1940’s (and later 50’s) when Annabelle was created by a dollmaker.
With Annabelle Comes Home, we’re back into the jewel toned vision of 1968. Ed and Lorraine Warren (played, as always, by hot horror dad Patrick Wilson and hot horror mom Vera Farmiga) have just picked up Annabelle and are taking her home (another surprise!) to lock her away in their artifact room, a menagerie of haunted items. Straight from the top Annabelle starts causing havoc. After forcing the car to break down by a graveyard and dallying in some ghost hijinks, the Warrens make it home just in time for time itself to jump forward three years so they can leave on a business trip. If you expected to have more time with the hot horror parents, you’re wrong again.
Instead, this deeply unnecessary and truly delightful horror film saddles us with the Warren’s precocious daughter, Judy, her naive babysitter Mary Ellen. They are both joined by Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (AKA the Veronica to Mary Ellen’s Betty) and Mary Ellen’s crush Bob. Daniela finds her way into the artifact room and goes ghost shopping, touching every cursed object in the joint and (finally) unleashing Annabelle.
And despite the fact that this is the third (count ’em) Annabelle prequel, it’s fun as hell. Annabelle is as spooky and stiff and enigmatic as ever, serving as a beacon for demons that play tricks on the teens all night long. What keeps the franchise from feeling stale is that they lean into the monster of the week vibe, creating brand new and incredibly designed monsters that take turns popping up around corners and have their own interesting occult backstories. It doesn’t hurt that director Gary Dauberman (who has directed all three Annabelle prequels and is getting better each time) drenches the movie in atmosphere, enveloping the Warren’s picturesque suburban neighborhood in a dense layer of fog that seeps into the house.
Like (almost) every film in The Conjuring franchise, there’s little gore, death, or actual consequences to anyone’s actions. The teens and Judy are able to defeat the demons with a little help from a friendly ghost (#NotAllGhosts is a real plot point in this film) and, once again, seal Annabelle away for good (or until the next movie). It’s a horror film with heart, one that manages to work in a quick study on grief while dispensing some of the most heavy metal horror monsters I’ve seen in years. If anything, Annabelle is the most boring bad guy in the flick.
Annabelle Comes Home is a delicious red velvet cupcake covered with layers of vintage horror camp frosting. Eat it in one bite and enjoy the sugar high.