That being said, nothing in “Annabelle Comes Home” matches the genuine inventiveness of more visionary home invasion sagas, from Jordan Peele’s “Us” to “You’re Next” or “Funny Games,” all of which center around similar terrors and fire off in unpredictable directions. In “Annabelle Comes Home,” as with its precedents, the jump scares are the main endpoint; everything else exists to prop them up. But “The Conjuring” movies make an effort to care about their characters before terrifying them every which way, and “Annabelle Comes Home” gives them ample reasons to be terrified..
That’s enough to carry the movie along its spooky-silly wavelength, and reveals the essence of the commercial coup in play. With yet another “Conjuring” installment and a “Nun” sequel on the way, it’s safe to say that audiences will keep getting more variations on this routine until ghosts somehow cease to be scary, or jump scares simply don’t work. Until then, “Annabelle Comes Home” is proof that some scare tactics don’t need much dolling up to do the trick.Despite remaining laudably committed to its namesake’s hobby of terrorizing little girls, “Annabelle Comes Home,” the latest in the demon-doll saga that began in 2013, is no more than a shameless franchise-stuffer. Burdened neither by fresh ideas nor common sense, Gary Dauberman’s lethargic screenplay (he also directed, an inauspicious debut) takes so long to get moving that Annabelle herself should demand a do-over.
A semi-sequel to the Conjuring films and a direct sequel to Annabelle – in the head-scratching, over-convoluted chronology of the James Wan-produced Conjuring universe, Annabelle appeared up in movie theaters before Annabelle: Creation (even evil dolls deserve origin stories, apparently) – Annabelle: Creation covered related key, mythology-expanding events that unfolded before Annabelle (making it a prequel to a prequel). Annabelle Comes Home finds the super-creepy doll (and demonic conduit) with the rictus smile and unblinking blue eyes front-and-center again, this time terrorizing Ed and Lorraine Warren’s (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) preteen daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace), her ultra-competent babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and Mary Ellen’s oddly death-obsessed best friend (forever), Daniela Rios (Katie Sarife) over the course of a single, inexplicably foggy night.
Annabelle Comes Home delivers everything audiences loyal to the Conjuring universe have come to expect, up to and including the obligatory slow-build, slow-burn scenes punctuated by the appearance of a ghostly apparition, occasional jump scares (earned and unearned), and the periodic injection of cathartic humor to offset the potential grimness of the proceedings.