This summer is chock-a-block with scary dolls: there’s Chucky’s imminent return in the Child’s Play reboot and some creepy ventriloquist dummies straight out of Magic that show up in the upcoming Toy Story 4. But first, cinemagoers are treated to the third solo outing from Annabelle, the “beacon for other spirits” that just won’t call it a day. “Miss me?”, she ominously asks. Not really, as audiences have gotten used to Conjuring films crawling their way into cinemas like clockwork, and this seventh in the franchise is very much business as usual. It sees demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, returning for an extended cameo) making the dubious decision to keep the possessed puppet locked in the same house as their young daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace), who shares her mother’s gift of seeing dead people. And wouldn’t you know it, while the parents are out of town, the babysitter’s best friend comes for a visit, ignores the sign on Annabelle’s case that reads ‘Warning – Positively Do Not Open’ and unleashes ghoulish pandemonium.
Director-screenwriter Gary Dauberman conjures stale scares rummaged from a familiar box of tricks: objects start moving on their own, lights unexpectedly go off in dark corridors, spirits drag their victims backwards across the floor and, as always, the camera pans back and forth to reveal an unexpected guest with A LOUD JUMP SCARE! Lather, rinse, repeat.
That said, despite the telegraphed scares, the young cast (Grace, Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife) give it socks and the epilogue isn’t half bad. Surprisingly, it ends up as the strongest of the Conjuring spin-offs. Granted, considering how low the bar was for this creaky franchise, it’s hardly a gleaming endorsement, but when the competition is the godawful The Nun and the dire The Curse Of La Llorona, Annabelle Comes Home is a minor mercy.
Annabelle Comes Home | Directed by Gary Daunerman (US, 2019), with McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife. Starts July 04.
Check our OV search engine for showtimes.