Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) bring the possessed doll to the locked artifacts room in their home, placing her "safely" behind sacred glass and enlisting a priest's holy blessing. But an unholy night of horror awaits as Annabelle awakens the evil spirits in the room, who all set their sights on a new target - the Warrens' ten-year-old daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), the babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife).
The inexplicable success of 'The Conjuring' universe has always been predicated on people's willingness to engage with tropes of horror, specifically '70s-twinged horror. 'The Conjuring', the movie that originally kicked things off, borrowed heavily from 'The Amityville Horror' and the likes of 'Annabelle: Creation' burrowed further in folk horror tales. With 'Anabelle Comes Home', it aims for haunted house thrills, but misses the mark more often than it hits.
The tension and the atmosphere in any horror rests on how effective the actors and how well the director can set the mood. Of course, with all of that, there has to be a script that can provide all of this. There's a simplicity in 'Annabelle Comes Home' that would, in the hands of a more experienced director, provided for a lot of shocks and horror. The doll's brought back to the house, unwitting friend opens up the doll case, doll begins to start some trouble. You can't mess it up too much, but what the movie fails to do is make any of it seem like there's anything at stake.
More to the point, the characterisation of everyone concerned feels so flat and unoriginal - without any of the previous movie's knowing nods to the genre - that it's impossible to care about what happens to them in the first place. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are in the movie for all of maybe five minutes, showing up at the beginning and the end and effectively acting as the responsible adults who have gone on holiday while the kids muck things up. You could conceivably compare 'Annabelle Comes Home' to 'Home Alone', in that it's kids left alone to fend for themselves, but it's only on the surface. When you peel back the layers, there's nothing really there.
For what it is, 'Annabelle Comes Home' serves as a schlocky horror that's effective half the time and achingly silly the rest of the time. There's better out there and more effective, but like 'The Curse Of La Llorna' earlier this year, it falls short of the standard expected from this horror franchise.