The “killer doll” subgenre of horror movies is definitely on the lower end of the quality spectrum. The only real successful one was Chucky, with everybody else after feeling like a cheap imitator. While the original and new Child’s Play film showed a doll could be threatening, although it’s held back a bit by its silliness. That’s the key: the threat has to be taken seriously. If you can make your creepy doll a genuine threat to the characters, then you can have something that doesn’t devolve into schlock. Again, though, the doll needs to actually do something, because then what’s there to be scared of? 

In Annabelle: Comes Home, demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) have just obtained their latest haunted artifact: the possessed, porcelain doll Annabelle. Knowing how dangerous she is, they lock her up in a case with a gigantic side commanding you to “Positively, DO NOT open.” Well, after the Warren’s go on vacation and leave their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace), it doesn’t stop her babysitter Mary Ellen’s (Madison Iseman) friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) from going into their basement and touching every possessed object in sight. This includes Annabelle, who comes to life and possesses the other objects in the home. As the girls try to keep Annabelle at bay, she unleashes a whole host of jump scares to terrorize them. 

She only has a bit part in the first Conjuring film and I haven’t seen her solo film debut from 2015, but with Annabelle: Creation, my main impression of her is that she’s by far the lamest horror movie doll ever. She never felt like a genuine threat, hardly killing anybody, and mostly just jump scaring people. Since that film’s screenwriter Gary Dauberman, who has had a big hand in the whole Conjuring franchise, returns here, it’s pretty much more of the same. Since Annabelle doesn’t really do anything, and has sparse screentime here, she just acts as a conduit for other gimmicky demons to come out and play. Since the Warren’s basement is filled with all sorts of haunted artifacts, they all end of coming to life, which adds to some campy fun at the end, but it’s too little too late by that point. While Annabelle possesses these things, she does nothing to make herself seem like a genuine threat. If she can possess these things to kill people, why does she toy around so much? I never once found the characters to be in any real danger. 
What we have here is basically three girls running around a haunted house, where they run from horror setpiece to horror setpiece, with rinse and repeat jump scares. Every demonic/ghost story cliché is in here. Crosses turning upside down, veiled ghosts creeping out the windows, scary things in the dark or making noises behind closed doors. Just like many of the other films in this series, it takes place in the 70’s, and of course lays that on thick with the costumes, production design, and the most generic 70’s songs you can think of. This is Gary Dauberman’s directorial debut and he falls flat on giving this film any sort of atmosphere. There’s no sense of dread and certainly no tension. It didn’t help that the lighting was so dark and gloomy, constantly making the house look like it’s eneveloped in a thin fog. The pacing and structure is just terrible, such as the love interest side character who appears and disappears for 20 minutes a time through the movie. He’s constantly outside being chased by a werewolf (which just feels shoehorned in there) and every time it cuts back to him being chased, he’s in a completely different location. I never knew what was going on, so I couldn’t be scared. 
At least the performances are pretty decent across the board. One positive thing about the Conjuring franchise is that they’ve always been pretty well made on a technical level. They started off the series having two very talented actors, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, and the rest of the films have always had good actors in the leads. That’s no different here, with Grace, Sarife, and Iseman all turning in natural performances with authentic friendly chemistry. Their characters are all just so thin, though. The main emotional thread is Daniela dealing with her father’s death (in which she feels responsible), but it’s all just resolved in a comical jump scare. None of the characters really have much going on, so it’s just them mindlessly running around and looking scared. Not to mention they were all so unbelievably dumb. I can mostly suspend my disbelief when it comes to stupid people in horror films, but when the entire premise hinges on a girl ignoring clear warning signs to not mess with stuff, it’s difficult to care about her character. Oh, and if you’re expecting a lot of the Warren’s here, don’t hold your breath after they exit the film 20 minutes in. 
At 106 minutes, Annabelle Comes Home felt like it was 5 hours long, where I legitimately had to struggle to keep myself awake. Annabelle is just so lame. She doesn’t do anything all that menacing are scary, so the complete lack of any stakes or decent characters made this easily one of the most boring horror films I’ve ever seen. Constant jump scares are certainly annoying, but some of them were a necessary jolt to my nervous system here… but then again, sleep would have probably been more entertaining than this. 

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