Annabelle Comes Home is my favorite movie in the 'Conjureverse,' which now includes seven films (two Conjurings, three Annabelles, one Nun, and one Curse of La Llorona). The series has always been solid, if unspectacular, but this new Annabelle is special. It becomes an old-school creature feature as the creepy little doll awakens a murderers' row of new villains in the artifacts room. That leads to plenty of fun, and will lead to plenty of spin-offs.
Annabelle Comes Home takes place in 1971, filling a gap between the prologue and the main story in The Conjuring. Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) take the Annabelle doll from some troubled nurses and lock it up in that sacred glass box for safe keeping. But then they leave. And they trust their house with the artifacts room with all the evil in the world in it to... a babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). It's these types of stupid decisions horror movies thrive on.
It's not long before the Warrens' daughter (Mckenna Grace) has a friend over and she gets into the artifacts room. She opens Annabelle's case and the demonic doll proceeds to unleash hell. The Ferryman, the Bride, the Samurai Armour, and many others haunt Mary Ellen and the little girls, possessing them along the way. The creativity of the evil and the violence itself makes the rest of the film a twisted theme park ride as each villain gets their turn to shine.
Written and directed by franchise stalwart Gary Dauberman, the latest Annabelle also follows the typical pattern of sequel silliness. That is, the more movies made in a franchise, the goofier they get. It can work both ways, but in Annabelle Comes Home, it's a good thing. Dauberman finds the balance between legitimately scary sequences and fun, campy moments.
The sequel (it's also a prequel) plays out a lot like those old '80s movies where an older kid has to protect younger kids. There are shades of The Goonies and Adventures in Babysitting, but those are much more lighthearted. Annabelle Comes Home maintains its horror edge while creating an adventure inside a single setting. It resorts to jump scares over gore and a video game-like experience where a new boss hides around every corner.