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Annabelle Comes Home, the third in the spinoff series of The Conjuring, features Judy Warren (Mckenna Grace), daughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), who possesses a psychic connection to the dead, much like her mother. When her parents are gone for the evening, Judy is left in the care of her loving babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), and Mary Ellen's friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife). But due to circumstances which I won't spoil, the Warrens' artifact room, in which they store all objects that are cursed, possessed, haunted, etc. locked away, is opened, and the cursed doll known as Annabelle is removed from her case, welcoming evil spirits into the house.
It's odd. The first Annabelle was pretty awful, despite The Conjuring being fantastic. But then came a prequel called Annabelle: Creation, and it was honestly great, which surprised us all. With the two most recent spinoff movies in the Conjuring universe being less successful (The Nun being simply underwhelming, and The Curse of La Llorona being pretty disappointing), it was unclear whether this new film would be any good. And actually, it is pretty good. I honestly enjoyed Annabelle Comes Home. It's clear that the film, like its prequel, isn't attempting to rival any sort of super ambitious, potentially award-worthy horror like The Shining or Rosemary's Baby. It just aims for pure entertainment value, which was probably a wise move. I also admired the gothic atmosphere that many of the more mood-driven sequences had. It gave the film a nice feel.
This movie has a pretty solid cast, despite the fact that its primary protagonist is a young girl. Mckenna Grace, who has shown herself to be a very promising up-and-comer, is really good as the shy, young medium. With Brightburn, Child's Play (2019), and now this film, this has been a pretty good year for child actors in horror. I also found myself really caring about Mary Ellen and Daniela, the babysitter and her friend. They both clearly cared about Judy, and oddly enough, Daniela was the more layered of the three. This was really cool, because ordinarily, the babysitter's friend in a horror movie would be the comic relief, rather than the dramatic heavyweight. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, despite being the leads in the actual Conjuring films, are mostly just given extended cameos at the beginning and end of this one, but this was probably for the better, because they didn't draw focus away from our three leads. But it goes without saying that Wilson in particular is as charming as ever.
There are some really cool monsters that this movie introduces into the Conjuring universe. Since we get to explore the entire artifact room, we get a glimpse of a whole host of new evils. There's a particular new ghoul to whom we are introduced called the Ferryman, who has a great design and plenty of presence, and I would love to see more of him in this ever-expanding cinematic universe. With so many of these spooky adversaries getting their own spinoff movies (such as the titular doll, the Nun, and the upcoming Crooked Man movie), I'd really enjoy seeing a Ferryman movie.
One element that does work to the film's detriment is that, all throughout the second act, the pacing is pretty sloppy. It will sort of lurch back and forth between different characters encountering various monsters. It's just a little too clunky. I wouldn't say that this makes these scenes less fun or creative, but it has a very noticeable slapped-together feel.
Annabelle Comes Home makes no qualms about being focused solely on entertaining its audience. It delivers on the jolts, creative new creatures, and even some rather impressive character work. While it may be unfocused and potentially overstuffed, it's likely to entertain genre fans in the mood for something fun and simple.