If you haven’t read (or want a recap) in my Mini Impressions of Annabelle, I basically said that while it was an okay movie, it did not live up to expectations. The Conjuring Universe took great pains to inform the audience that Annabelle is the ultimate evil, so “her” first solo movie being decidedly less scary than others in the franchise was a bit of a letdown. Still, I had planned on watching every movie in the franchise, and here we are.
Annabelle Comes Home picks up after the short snippet from the start of The Conjuring, following the Warrens as they take Annabelle to their home. Lorraine realizes that Annabelle calls other malevolent spirits to her, so they take extra care when putting her in their artifact room. Flash forward, and Judy (the Warrens’ daughter) is being left alone with her babysitter Mary Ellen and Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela. Some stuff happens, and Annabelle is released from her case.
Annabelle Comes Home is kind of the Goosebumps movie of The Conjuring Universe. Before anyone takes this as an insult, it’s not, just the best comparison I could come up with. In the Goosebumps movie there was a lot of effort put into bringing as many of the books into the movie as possible. In Annabelle Comes Home, there is a lot of effort put into showing as many spirits or other such things tied to the artifacts in the room as possible.
The movie is really intent on showing us a lot of the spirits tied to some of the most famous Warren cases and clearly setting up some background information about future installments in the franchise (almost like an extended trailer for what might be future movies). A lot is thrown at the audience, especially if you aren’t that knowledgeable about The Conjuring Universe or famous supernatural cases. The movie does guide the audience pretty well when it matters, but there is, without a doubt, mystery surrounding a lot of the artifacts the characters (and thus the audience) are exposed to.
One of my knee-jerk reactions to the whole thing was, “are they planning on making 10 more movies in this franchise.” Despite the overload of different spirits, it is not too overwhelming, and the variety is interesting, even if some are much scarier and better fleshed out than others. It also gives an entirely different feeling to the idea of a haunted house movie because it is not one spirit but so many.
It does once again leaving me wondering about the fear of Annabelle, though. Yes, it is really scary that “she” is able to unleash all of this. But once again, I was watching a movie about the scariest thing the Warren’s ever faced (supposedly), and once again little of the fear is actually from Annabelle. Bringing all of these spirits together and the terrifying outcome of that was riveting, but it didn’t scream “Annabelle” to me. She was the catalyst but rarely the source of fear.
As for the movie itself, I actually rather enjoyed it. Mary Ellen interestingly falls into the “final girl” trope from slasher flicks without being in a slasher flick. Even though she hits this trope, it’s not annoying, her actress does a great job, and she fits well into the story. Daniela was probably my favorite character. Although I went from wanting to hate her to absolutely loving her, and I like the way the audience watches her story unfold (trying to avoid details). Judy… is difficult. She is a bit too much the “smart but quiet younger girl that saves the day” to the point that it gets a bit flat. However, she does have a few shining moments, and it wasn’t enough to throw me off.
The suspense is decent. There are a lot of drawn-out moments to big surprises that are good for that edge of the seat feeling. There is a lot of reliance on jump scares, but I don’t hate jump scares I just think there needs to be a balance between them and tension building. The balance is not perfectly struck, but it is there. It is not the scariest movie by any stretch, but it has a few good scares and is entertaining from start to finish.
The pacing is solid, good character building before the horror really hits, which is effective. I wanted the girls to be alright, and it bothered me from start to finish knowing they might not be. The house was used well with a lot of exploring in the darkness. And a lot of focus on the artifact room but not trapping us in there.
The various creature designs were hit and miss. I still do not like the direction they went with Annabelle, and I will likely never. There was also some reliance on CGI for particular spirits that looked okay but not amazing. However, on the other side, there was some decent design around other spirits, and I was especially a fan of the Ferryman scares (in fact, hoping that it gets a standalone).
I was left feeling like something felt different, and I am still struggling to put my finger on it. With some of the humor and the way that certain parts played out, I almost felt like this was a “kid friendly” Conjuring movie. Not exactly “kid” since a lot of it would be too intense for actual children, but this movie felt a lot more approachable to a wide range in ages and experience with horror than some of the rest of the movies in the Universe. I don’t know if it was the age of the cast or even just something I came up with on my own (since again, the Goosebumps comparison came to mind). I am not saying it is a bad thing, just that with my experience of the franchise overall, this one sits a little differently than the others. It is worth mentioning that I am still behind, so maybe other movies would seem more comparable to this one that I just haven’t seen yet.
Bottom line? I liked this movie, and I had fun watching it. I know “fun” and horror is a turn off for some people, and I get that. However, I like movies like this one every once in awhile when I want to be scared but don’t want to be overwhelmed. It’s a good movie. I liked seeing various artifacts put to use, I like the potential world-building for other movies in the franchise, and it was decently scary if not overly so. It felt a little disconnected from the other movies I have seen in the series as “fun” is not the take away I had with those, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Variety in a franchise is important to keep it from getting stale. I think some people might be disappointed with it as the next installment in the franchise, but for me, it might easily be one of my favorites (again once I see them all). I wish I could give more of a blanket recommendation because I think it might be a bit much as an intro to the franchise, but at the same time might appeal to people who are iffy about the rest of the movies. I think it is worth a watch, and it makes me excited about future installments. Although I still struggle with the concept of Annabelle overall, it was much easier to ignore that nagging feeling than with the first Annabelle movie.