Annabelle Comes Home (3 stars)

Annabelle Comes Home

Performances are strong and jump-scares efficient in this shallow but polished horror spin-off

Written and directed by Gary Dauberman (the screenwriter of the first two Annabelle movies, making his directorial debut), Annabelle Comes Home is the third instalment of the spooky doll franchise and the seventh in the ever-expanding universe of spin-offs which sprang from 2013's The Conjuring. That original connection is heavily underscored here by the presence of Conjuring stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga (both absent from the first two Annabelles), though their contribution is largely confined to bookending cameos in a fairly straightforward terrorise-the-teens picture.

Heading out on a case, celebrity paranormal investigators – and real-life figures – Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) entrust their ten-year-old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) to the care of sensible babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). However, when Mary Ellen's nosy friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) comes over, she heads straight for the Warrens' evil artefacts room, only to unleash a whole haunted house's worth of horrors after she accidentally opens the glass case containing devil doll Annabelle.

Rather than being possessed, Annabelle is a conduit for evil spirits in general, which allows the film to menace each of the children simultaneously with a different spooky entity, some of which (the Ferryman in particular) could well end up with their own spin-off in the near future. Dauberman certainly knows how to build tension and orchestrates a series of efficient jump-scares, but he fails to add any depth to the story beyond things going bump in the night; there's no sense of what these entities actually want, other than to feed off the screams of teenage girls.

Nevertheless, the performances are excellent, with Grace proving a constant surprise as the wise-beyond-her-years pre-teen who discovers she has more in common with her mother than she previously thought. The film also benefits from the same impeccably detailed 1970s production design that distinguished the Conjuring movies, in conjunction with a savvy soundtrack that knows the value of an eerie silence.

General release from Wed 10 Jul.

Annabelle Comes Home

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 46min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Gary Dauberman
  • Cast: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga
  • UK release: 28 June 2019

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) find themselves once again menaced by devil doll Annabelle. Dauberman knows how to build tension and makes a few efficient jump-scares, but there’s no depth to the story and apart from excellent performances it’s a straightforward terrorise-the-teens…