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Review roundup: Can Annabelle Comes Home conjure more delightful doll dread?
Reviewers are beginning to stir with their full reactions to the newest spooky chapter in James Wan’s ever-expanding Conjuring horror-verse, and it looks as though longtime fans will find some good news lurking in the creepy darkness we’ve all been locked away in while waiting for Annabelle Comes Home to materialize.
Early opinions on Annabelle Comes Home appear split between industry-insider critics who yawn at the movie’s horror beats, and more mainstream reviewers who enjoy a good summertime scare with a few laughs thrown in. In all, critical reaction seems to stack up on either one side or the other, depending on how seriously you take your evil-channeling Victorian dolls when you show up at the theater looking for some spine-tingling fun.
Reviewers who enjoyed the third installment in the Annabelle movie menagerie took away the sort of popcorn-munching thrills that have spun the Conjuring universe into a reported $1.5 billion box office juggernaut. The premise, they seems to agree, is fresh enough to keep the scares coming, and the vibe gives a fun nod to the kind of light, old school setup that throws an ensemble of misfits into a box — then lets them stumble their own way out.
Over at Rotten Tomatoes, Annabelle Comes Home broke out of the gate with a 61 percent Certified Fresh rating as of this writing, a split which perhaps says a lot about just how differently professional reviewers approach horror movies with an unabashed mission to entertain. Check out what critics are saying on both sides below, and don’t take any of it on faith — check it out for yourself and see if Annabelle still has what it takes to scare you into whispering a frightened prayer at the theater.
"Unlike the two-hour-plus Conjuring movies or the comparatively sprawling convent showdowns of The Nun, the new movie basically jams the archetypes of a John Hughes teen comedy into a minimalist haunted scenario. While that’s not enough to suppress the underlying gimmickry of the storytelling, Annabelle Comes Home at least manages to charm and frighten its way through the purest distillation of the Conjuring formula to date." -- Eric Kohn
"Instead of trying to out-creep The Conjuring, [Annabelle Comes Home] pivots into a lighter, simpler, funnier film with a tighter plot and a few fresh monsters (some of which fans of mythology and urban legends might recognize). If Annabelle Comes Home should be the last Annabelle-centric film in the series, it feels like a perfect final chapter." -- Juliet Bennett Rylah
"Across the board, Annabelle Comes Home is a blast from start to finish, a horror-fuelled babysitting adventure that sends plucky teens into peril and watches them face down the odds. One of the biggest compliments I can give: It’s such an energetic, fun-loving horror film that it’s bound to become a regular in my Halloween-season watchlist. Throw in a couple of standout supporting characters (be prepared to fall in love with a sweet young man named Bob), a tightly-paced adventure through countless haunted horrors, and an ever-escalating series of scares, and you’ve got yourself one of the best entries in the Conjuring series." -- Haleigh Foutch
"If it’s not quite as good as the doll’s origin story, Creation, it’s still way more fun than any sequel — especially one this deep into a franchise — has any right to be…The film is set in the 1970s, and evokes that period nicely, by more than just its appropriate needle-drop soundtrack. It’s also surprisingly funny." -- Michael O'Sullivan
"Annabelle Comes Home is only a little scary, and too religiously dedicated to its own ongoing cash-printing megafranchise for big laughs. But the best moments in this low-key domestic horror film have a tossed-off quality, like the whole production cycle was a fun weekend for everybody." -- Darren Franich
"With nearly all the action limited to an afternoon and a seemingly endless night of horror in the Warrens' maze-like home, [Director Gary] Dauberman gives himself a compact, confined space to work with. Although it makes for an initially absorbing narrative and filmmaking challenge, with nowhere for the characters to run or hide, the thrills and shocks gradually become repetitive, as the writer-director recycles his own material, forcing the girls to evade the same threats again and again." -- Justin Lowe
"The grand result of all this cheesy metaphysical heavy lifting is that Annabelle Comes Home is a relentless but awkward throw-everything-at-the-viewer occult thriller that mixes ghosts, looming spirits, and — yes — inanimate objects coming to life, with the figure of Annabelle not so much at the scary center of the action as existing alongside it… Name your fear trigger, and it’s probably there, somewhere, in Annabelle Comes Home. It looks like a horror film, but it’s really the horror equivalent of speed dating." -- Owen Gleiberman
What’s the story setup? Well, you know you’re looking at a legit Conjuring-verse movie when Patrick Wilson (Ed Warren) and Vera Farmiga (Lorraine Warren) are front and center. And as always, they don’t have to go searching very far to find their next paranormal encounter. Thanks to a chain reaction when they leave their 10-year-old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) at home with a babysitter (Madison Iseman), Annabelle not only rouses from her supernatural slumber, but this time she’s bringing a host of wakened objects from the Warren's artifact room with her.
Directed by first timer Gary Dauberman (whose background already includes writing The Nun, as well as IT) and co-written by Dauberman and Wan, the seventh chapter in the Conjuring world stalks into wide release everywhere starting June 26.