The “Annabelle” films are prequels spun off from the “Conjuring” universe, and the first sure sign that they were second tier is that Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, as the fretfully eager true-life Christian devil busters Ed and Lorraine Warren, didn’t even make an appearance in the first two movies. But they’re on hand to set up “Annabelle Comes Home,” a haunted-house thriller that takes place almost entirely in their roomy dark-shadowed suburban home, which is done up in conflicting patterns of floral wallpaper and a muted rainbow of gloomy autumnal ’70s colors.
Ed, who’s played by Wilson as the Pat Boone of exorcists, and Lorraine, embodied by Farmiga with a righteous tenderness, have been at their paranormal investigations for a while now, and are generating some headlines. They’ve got a room in their home stuffed with all the occult artifacts they’ve gathered from their adventures. It’s like a museum of ghoulish bric-a-brac, and though it’s right there on the ground floor, in what might have been a sprawling extra bedroom, it functions in the film like the basement you’re not supposed to go into.
Its centerpiece is the case of sacred glass, taken from a church, in which Annabelle resides. She’s locked up in there so that she can’t do her mischief. But on a night when the Warrens’ 10-year daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace), is at home with her two high-school babysitters, the saintly blonde Marcia Brady-like Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and the sneaky dark Nancy-Allen-in-“Carrie”-like Daniela (Katie Sarife), all hell breaks loose. That’s because Daniela, fixated on the growing legend of the Warrens, can’t resist going into the ghost museum and poking around. And, of course, just about the first thing she does is to unlock Annabelle’s case. Beware, the conduit is loose!