Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, and Mckenna Grace in Annabelle Comes Home (Photo: Warner)

★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Gary Dauberman
STARS Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

As far as unnecessary sequels go, both 2014’s Annabelle and 2017’s Annabelle: Creation make fairly convincing cases for their existence. Designed as offshoot cash-ins to the 2013 hit The Conjuring (and its own follow-up, 2016’s The Conjuring 2), these films sought to explain the origins of the spooky doll first referenced in The Conjuring. What’s impressive about the twofer is that, while Annabelle seemed to have answered all pertinent questions about the genesis of the doll, Annabelle: Creation went even further back in time to present the story behind the story. Like a puzzle piece, the ending of Annabelle: Creation snapped neatly into place with the beginning of Annabelle, and the two pictures established an identity as their own self-contained saga.

Of course, once the two movies managed to gross a combined $550 million worldwide, it became a guarantee that a third chapter would be added. There’s not really much else to relate about the antique doll, so Annabelle Comes Home tacks on what amounts to a hastily scrawled postscript. As initially seen in The Conjuring, the doll is now in the possession of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (characters based on a pair of real-life shysters who made a living peddling this nonsense), so this entry wonders what would happen if Annabelle busted loose and wreaked havoc on the Warren homestead.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson again portray Lorraine and Ed, although their roles in this film are supporting ones. Instead, the focus is on their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) and the horrors that occur while Mom and Dad are away on a case. Judy’s babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) is responsible enough, but the same can’t be said of Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife). Vaguely hoping to make contact with her deceased father, Daniela ignores Judy’s warnings and breaks into the locked room that holds all of the evil artifacts the Warrens have confiscated over the years. Daniela not only messes with most of the items but also opens the cabinet that houses the Annabelle doll. This action results in all sorts of monstrosities being unleashed, including a grouchy Samurai and a demon dog seemingly borrowed from The Hound of the Baskervilles.

It’s all rather tedious, resulting in a series of jump-scares that lead to neither jumps nor scares. Part of the problem is the setting of the Warren residence, which proves to be woefully inadequate as a haunted house. Poltergeist made the haunted suburban home memorable by treating it as a roller coaster ride, but by going for straight ambience, Annabelle Comes Home has no backup when said atmospherics fail to materialize. Of course, any edifice can probably be made menacing with the right angles and proper lighting — for instance, the 2007 Spanish gem [REC] managed to turn a Barcelona apartment building into Hell on Earth — but director Gary Dauberman and cinematographer Michael Burgess find more menace in the early-‘70s décor than they do in any of the horrific happenings.

But say this for the film’s titular doll: In a celebrity death match, it’s a given that she would eviscerate that wimpy new incarnation of Chucky.

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