The Conjuring conveyor belt continues to churn out buffed but perfunctory silage with this second sequel in the Annabelle series. The set-up sees Conjuring regulars Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) adopt the nit-ridden doll of the title and declare her “a beacon of spirits” before a bungled exorcism results in Annabelle being banished to the storeroom of cursed artifacts. The Warrens then leave their clairvoyant daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) with vacuous teen babysitters Mary (Maddison Iseman) and Katie (Daniela Rios), who break into the quadruple locked, caution sign-plastered storeroom and accidentally free the evil they’ve been repeatedly warned about. The rest of ACH sees Judy and the babysitters evade then battle monstrous manifestations while trying to re-capture the maniacal doll and not die violently while doing so.
Where the previous entry in this Conjuring spin off series’, Annabelle: Creation, shockingly bettered its predecessor, this tepid second follow-up just about avoids putrefying into bibble with its gaudy CG beast melange and pantomime frights that are about as scary as cut-out skeletons being dangled above a cot by a cackling nan. Screenwriter Gary Dauberman (It, The Nun) predominantly blunders his directorial debut but weaves an intriguing character arc about grief into his script which retains a splash of gravitas across the sporadically bobbing then stagnating plot. Following a pithy set-up, ACH slithers through textbook dread building exercises and blunt jump scares with the type of CG beasties you’d find in Hotel Transylvania and Goosebumps. The shoddily rendered creatures seem sketched as test-runs for possible future spin-offs but aren’t remotely as striking, frightening or iconic looking as Annabelle or The Nun were when governed by James Wan.
A haunted wedding dress looks spooky in the backdrop (a spin-off “Vs” brawl with In Fabric’s terror garment would be nice) while a hybrid “hell hound” CG creature is derivative, incongruous and seems pinched from better werewolf movies. Aside from a decent lead performance from Mckenna Grace, who does her best with derisory, ligneous dialogue, this second sequel is as plastic and soulless as the doll itself. ACH often seems like it’s trying too hard not to frighten through fear of scaring people away. As a result, it will more likely make most snore louder than scream and, like the doll, needs to be flung in a washing machine on a three hour spin cycle to eradicate the squiffy, paranormal waft.