The seventh in the Conjuring series (I know) squeezes the last drops from a formula that’s well and truly spent. Having diversified with trips to England, prequels, and a spin-off set in a World War 2 convent featuring Christ’s tears (no, really), the plot of this latest prequel (and direct sequel to the original for those trying to orientate themselves), is a lazy riff on Poltergeist with the Warrens’ daughter being terrorised at home when the babysitter’s best friend opens the talismanic doll’s case and unleashes hell.
Though it’s nicely shot and passably inventive in places, there is an air of desperation about Annabelle Comes Home. It plays like a short extended to feature length. A story so slight that it might have featured as a bonus feature on the Conjuring’s Blu-ray.
There’s half-hearted attempts at injecting human interest into the single sentence story – a teen who feels responsible for her Dad’s death hoping to make contact, the Warrens’ kid friendless and lonely on account of the stigma attached to her parents’ ghostbusting, and both are wrapped up by movie’s end, but this is pepper sprinkled onto thin gruel.
The reason anyone bothers with shit like Annabelle Comes Home is to be scared, and on that score there’s very little invention on display. Gary Dauberman does his best with the box of tricks bequeathed to him by James Wan, but he lacks the original director’s skill in utilising claustrophobic interior spaces populated by creepy artefacts. The film’s reliant on old standbys like ear bleeding sound effects and other clichés – giggling dead kids and creepy notes in crayon, to achieve its effects and consequently, perhaps on account of a glorious miasma created by a smoke machine at full tilt, there’s little to see here.
The producers of this series should consider retiring the franchise on the upbeat and humane note that closes this instalment. They won’t of course, but there’s a danger that if flogged any further, the creative team will start to appear as spectres in future movies.