Review: ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ (haunted house party)

You know those direct-to-video sequels which inexplicably get a theatrical release?

Picking up after the events at the end of Annabelle, Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) take the cursed doll home to be stored away. Soon after, the Warrens entrust their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) to her favorite babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) while away for a few days, leaving only a locked door and a set of keys between them and a room full of cursed objects. Following a newspaper article questioning the authenticity of the Warrens, Mary Ellen’s friend from school Daniela (Katie Sarife) pressures her way into the house with a secret agenda… and Annabelle isn’t one to pass up an opportunity.

It’s no secret that the best films connected to The Conjuring have been the original film and especially the sequel. As embellished fictional accounts loosely based on the case files of the actual Warrens, it wasn’t until Annabelle: Creation that the spin-offs started showing real potential. Sadly, neither The Nun nor The Curse of La Llorona mirrored realization of that potential, coasting on a passing connection. With the new film advertising unleashing the entire current collection of artifacts upon a house of unsuspecting victims, can the new entry this be up to Annabelle’s established standards or another thoughtless jump-scare throwaway?

Easily the worst-titled film in “The Conjuring Universe” since naming it The Conjuring — where nothing is actually conjured — the closest thing herein to Annabelle’s homecoming is the act of putting her in her case, taking all of sixty seconds at the beginning. Everything afterward are fun hints about lots of cool things — none of which are fully explored. It’s as if the story by producer James Wan and Gary Dauberman consisted of every unused idea instead of any single good one, much like a filler episode of “Friday the 13th: The Series” when someone left the vault of cursed objects unlocked and unattended (which happened a lot).

Similar to the third act of The Nun, the missed opportunities are palpable. Why doesn’t being in the Warren’s house ever bother the babysitter? When will daughter Judy (extra points to anyone singing that) start to explore her hinted-at abilities instead of enduring or avoiding them? Never mind all the interesting ghosts and critters that seem to appear plus all the stupid things characters do without any clue, yet inexplicably succeed at and survive. Fans of the series should expect to enjoy an artifact-themed haunted house (there’s actually a traveling version of it advertising the film for Warner Bros.) but the overall effect falls very flat in spite of a good cast.

Case in point: look up Katie Sarife’s credits on iMDB and notice which episode of The CW’s “Supernatural” she was in… then try not to laugh. If there were any justice in the world, she’d have called in the Winchesters to put Annabelle down once and for all. Hey, as long as we’re fictionalizing all of this, why not get Annabelle and Chucky together later, too?

Annabelle Comes Home is rated R for horror violence, terror, and are you being serious right now?

Two skull recommendation out of four

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