It’s rare that a film’s sequels continuously top its predecessors, but that’s exactly the case with Annabelle Comes Home. Already the third movie in a line of Conjuring spin-offs, Gary Dauberman takes a tired trope and freshens it up. Homages to classic horror flicks are present, but never override the lo-fi thriller at the core.

Family Themes in Annabelle Comes Home

Katie Sarife in Annabelle Comes Home

One of the strongest aspects of Annabelle Comes Home is how much it relies on family bonds. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are not physically around much, but their effect on Judy (Mckenna Grace) is evident.

Her struggles to accept her parents’ lifestyle aren’t the only personal issues on display, either. When her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) brings her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) to play, another story plays out beautifully. Daniela’s desire to communicate with a lost loved one parallels Judy’s own emerging abilities thanks to her mother.

That’s not to mention the idea of a makeshift family, which Annabelle Comes Home crystallizes quite nicely in the girls’ friendship. There’s even romance on the side for Mary Ellen, when her hapless crush Bob (Michael Cimino) decides to try his hand at serenading. But the story is carried by the three ladies, and all the actresses do admirable work.

Quality Horror On A Budget

Annabelle Comes Home to roost

Of course, Annabelle Comes Home is a horror film before anything else – and on that front, it delivers. Some elements feel simplistically good vs. evil, but Dauberman and cinematographer Michael Burgess make them elegant. A lot of the scares linger, building tension before the characters themselves see them. By intercutting these atmospheric moments with occasional jumpscares, the movie avoids boring its audience.

The demonic doll herself is as unsettling as ever. Annabelle Comes Home makes use of the Warrens’ screen time by giving us chills on the ride home. Not only are there refreshing character-based frights rather than a bloodbath, but there’s also rich background for The Conjuring enthusiasts. Plenty of questions you may not have even known you had are answered throughout the course of one fateful night.

If you’re looking for a guilty pleasure that’s sure to make you scream and likely to make you think, Annabelle Comes Home won’t let you down. Whether you’re a fan of the previous Conjuring films or not, this story stands on its own.