Annabelle Comes Home is a brainless sequel that telegraphs every scare. The seventh installment in The Conjuring Universe and third Annabelle film had me laughing out loud for the wrong reasons. Annabelle franchise writer Gary Dauberman steps behind the camera for his feature directorial debut. He delivers a formulaic plot with cookie cutter characters. Annabelle Comes Home is a lame rehash of tired horror movie tropes. Lower your expectations to the basement, where a third of the film takes place.

In a seventies suburb, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren take possession of the demonic doll Annabelle. A priest blesses the porcelain terror before the Warrens' imprison it in a sacred glass cabinet. Annabelle is locked away in their basement, along with other dangerous artifacts the Warrens' have collected. Annabelle becomes an afterthought as time passes by.

Mckenna Grace stars as Judy, the Warrens' ten-year-old daughter. She is ridiculed at school for being weird. Judy has inherited her mother's clairvoyance. The Warrens' have to leave for an overnight trip. They leave Judy in the care of trusted teenage babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). She gets an unexpected visit from her troublemaker best friend (Katie Sarife) and high school crush (Michael Cimino). Teenagers and a girl alone in a house with a bolted basement full of evil...what could possibly go wrong?

Related: Annabelle Comes Home Wins Its R-Rating for Horror, Violence and Terror

Annabelle Comes Home never deviates from the standard horror movie formula. The adult characters disappear in short order for a flimsy reason. Never mind the fact they're leaving an only child under a teenage girl's care in a house filled with dangerous supernatural objects. Everything with a glaring sign that says "danger, do not open"; gets opened. I couldn't help but break out in laughter when a character finds the Warrens' keys. She magically figures out the right key for every lock on the first try. This is absolutely laughable to see when a door has multiple locks. This nonsensical behavior pervades the entire runtime. Just like dumb teens running blindly through dark woods, the characters here bumble about illogically. Rational thought and self-preservation don't exist.

Annabelle Comes Home has zero surprises. This is a death blow for a horror film. Imagine walking through a haunted house and being able to tell exactly when someone jumps at you. Gary Dauberman falls from the predictable tree, then hits every branch on the way down. Nothing unexpected takes place. Each frightening moment is woefully spoiled by an obvious build-up. Annabelle Comes Home could have been written and directed by a machine. There isn't a true second of distress or intrigue for the audience.

Annabelle Comes Home is rated R for "horror violence and terror". It should be rated B for boring. The film is spectacularly unoriginal, a dialed-in profit exercise. Incredibly, if Annabelle Comes Home grosses just $64 million at the global box office, The Conjuring Universe will become the most successful R-rated franchise in history. That's a mind-boggling statistic for such a subpar effort. Annabelle Comes Home is produced by New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster Productions, and The Safran Company, with distribution by Warner Bros.

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Julian Roman