**MILD SPOILERS AHEAD**

It’s that time again – yep, it’s the release of yet another entry in the ever-expanding Conjuring Universe. Unlike the last film, The Curse of La Llorona, which popped up out of nowhere earlier this year, Annabelle Comes Home, has been in the works for a while and it’s not surprising really.

The two previous Annabelle movies were sizeable successes for Warner Bros. Pictures, raking in more than $550 million dollars between the pair. With box office results like that, a third film was inevitable.

But is this third tale likely to hit the same financial heights of the previous two?

I’d be surprised if it didn’t!

Annabelle Comes Home is arguably the strongest Conjuring spin-off to date and judging by how busy it was in the cinema tonight, I expect it to be quite popular this weekend.

Set during the early ’70s, Annabelle Comes Home takes place approximately four years after the events of Annabelle, with the doll safely locked away in the home of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Safely that is until a teenage girl named Daniela unlocks Annabelle’s case, kick-starting a night of horror at the demonologists’ homestead.

That’s the basic premise and I’d be lying if I said it went much further than this. However, there are a few moments which elevate the narrative and when they arrive they make all the difference.

Chief amongst these moments is the inclusion of the Warrens, as played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The pair appear at the beginning and the end of the movie to bookend the tale and their involvement is more than welcome.

Wilson and Farmiga are usually absent from the Annabelle films, but it is great to see them here and its clear why they are so important to this universe. They ground the films and ensure there is some substance to the more fantastical elements.

Image: ©Warner Bros Pictures

When I watched the trailers for Annabelle Comes Home I got the impression that the actors would only have minor roles (which they do), so I was worried the film would suffer when the pair were off screen. Thankfully that’s not the case, and that’s largely because in addition to their involvement, this movie introduces a side story which gives the plot a dash of heart too.

This side story revolves around the teenager, Daniela and her recently deceased father. Through Daniela’s journey the movie is able to explore the death of a loved one, and how that can impact the choices we make.

I didn’t expect this storyline to form so much of the movie and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s clear that the film’s writer/director, Gary Dauberman wanted to ensure there was more meat on the bone for this film and he succeeded.

Both the Warrens and Daniela certainly elevate this movie – as does some humour, which is a rarity for these films – but Annabelle Comes Home‘s biggest trump card is the way in which it handles the doll. The film finally understands the best way to make an Annabelle story work is by relegating the Annabelle doll to the sidelines.

This time around Annabelle is more of a puppet master, helping to shepherd in a bunch of new creepy characters to The Conjuring Universe. These characters include the Ferryman, the Bride, and a grisly hellhound, all of which will no doubt be appearing in a future spin-off movie(s).

OK, so their screen time is limited, but for every second they are on screen it is a second less for Annabelle and that works in this movie’s favour. When Annabelle does appear she seems a lot scarier than usual and the old adage of ‘less is more’ becomes very apparent.

Image: ©Warner Bros Pictures

Annabelle Comes Home is a haunted horror, which is far from original, but it is entertaining. The return of the Warrens helps to strengthen the story (and its place in The Conjuring Universe), but there’s enough going on in this movie to ensure it delivers regardless.

As with all of the films in The Conjuring series, there’s an over reliance on jump scares, and these do become a little tedious at times, but they don’t derail the movie. This is a decent entry and should work for fans of the series as well as Conjuring newbies.

Good stuff.

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