Who’d love a doll like Annabelle, the godawful porcelain-faced monstrosity who first appeared in The Conjuring 2 (2016) terrorising a pair of student nurses? Well, not those nurses, who appear at the start of this, the third Annabelle spin-off film, passing the devil doll on to psychic investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to take home to the Artefacts Room in their own family pile.
Now, if a room full of cursed, demonic and haunted objects seems about as irresponsible a thing to have in a suburban home as Turin, the nine-foot python that recently enjoyed a slither around Cambridgeshire, then you’d be right. In this movie, the Warrens’ well-behaved daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace), is left home alone with an equally well-behaved babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), and her stupidly badly-behaved friend Daniela (Katie Sarife), who can’t resist going into the Artefacts Room to, as she later admits, touch “everything”.
What unfolds is a kind of shit-scary Jumanji or Night At The Museum, in which multiple horrors are unleashed on the young threesome all at once, not least Annabelle, who’s doing her demon-magnet thing and manages to latch on to a horned female devil that will give even seasoned horror film lovers the creeps. It’s left to Judy to try and close Pandora’s box as a murderous bride, a ghoul called The Ferryman and even a bloody werewolf run riot.
The Conjuring series has been stuck in a rut somewhat lately: The Nun (2018) was kind of boring and Annabelle: Creation (2017) was only as interesting as an origin story for a doll can be. Part of the problem with focusing films on Annabelle is, essentially, she’s just a doll. She doesn’t talk or walk, she just appears in different places – which hasn’t been really creepy since that very first appearance. Here, as the cause of so much chaos, her power comes to the fore.
So, happily, Annabelle Comes Home puts the whole Conjuring universe back on track with a well-paced story, likeable characters (you even warm to Daniela, despite her idiotic actions) and more great scares than is reasonable to expect. In a summer in which we’ve seen also the return of Buzz Lightyear and Chucky, Annabelle’s status as biggest badass in the toybox is restored.