If Annabelle Comes Home is the best of the three films to date — a low-ish bar, but still — it’s because he’s well aware that is simplistic story works best as a cross between a haunted house and a carnival funhouse. This is a highly efficient scare machine, trapping its trio of young women in a house filled with board games that sprout hands and a folkloric nightmare known as the Ferryman (“You’ll pay his toll/he’ll take your soul”) and ancient Japanese warrior armor that seems curiously aware of its surroundings. A cute boy (Michael Cimino, no relation to the late director) briefly enters the picture, as does some sort of hellhound creature. When all else fails, simply have someone pulled violently by unseen forces or add unidentifiable whispering voices.
Or better yet, cut to McKenna Grace looking worried, since the underage actor has an uncanny knack for communicating a beyond-her-years sense of dread. No stranger to the supernatural — she was a flashback regular on Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House — she gives the Warrens’ daughter an intelligence and apprehensiveness that feels leagues above your typical scream-queen-in-training performance. Grace makes being in a state of perpetual uneasiness seem effortless. You will come for the brand name, stay for the genre jolts and leave thinking about how this young woman seems genuinely haunted by this experience. That, and just how eerie the simple sight of coins rolling out of the shadows can be. Annabelle Comes Home is not out to reinvent the wheel, or to even rotate the franchise tires. It may not leave you petrified to the core, but it won’t you leave angry, and in this, the Summer of Our Perpetual Disastrous Sequel, that’s no small feat. It is a meat-and-potatoes scarefest, an oddly back-to-basics take on the ghost-story gauntlet run. Compared to the previous films, it’s worth its weight in spare doll parts.
The third time’s the charm for ‘Conjuring’ spin-off series, which delivers a simple but efficient scare machine The evil doll from “The Conjuring” movies haunts young Judy Warren (Mckenna Grace) in the new horror film “Annabelle Comes Home.