Annabelle: Creation

One thing that confuses me most about the connected universe that spiralled madly out of the wake of James Wan’s The Conjuring in 2013, is the apparent popularity of the Annabelle doll. The fact that the dolly based, spin-off series managed to score an entire trilogy before it’s parent franchise did honestly blows my fucking mind – especially when you consider that the titular toy of terror doesn’t actually do anything…
Less of a rampaging Chucky from Child’s Play and more of a malevolent mascot, the Annabelle doll is merely a conduit that allows a black, snorting demon to enter your home and rudely start possessing people at will which technically makes one of the more popular images of modern horror an in-action figure. However, despite her rousing debut in 2013, her prequel film (unsurprisingly called Annabelle) was actually a pretty substandard affair that daringly swapped legitimate scares for genuine impatience in the case of this reviewer – but with the arrival of another movie detailing the devil doll’s origins that was being helmed by the director of the creepy Lights Out, hopes were high that this prequel of the prequel would prove to be an equal…

It’s now the 50’s, and a god-fearing dollmaker and his wife have their faith severely teated when their young daughter Annabelle gets Pet Sematary-ed by a random truck in a senseless accident. Twelve years later and we rejoin them in arguably a worse state that where we left them with the husband a hollow wreck and the wife bed bound thanks to some sort of vicious facial disfigurement, but in an attempt to breath life back into their broken home, they’ve opened their doors to six girls and their ward, Sister Charlotte, who have all been left homeless after their orphanage was shut. The father only gives them one rule: do not enter his daughter’s locked bedroom – which, wouldn’t you know it, is immediately broken by the polio stricken Janice, who finds the Annabelle doll and kicks off a whole world of shit for everyone living in the same house. It’s seems that Annabelle’s parents in their earlier grief hit upon the questionable idea of praying to whatever supernatural entity would grant their wish to see their daughter again and then agreed to transfer it’s soul into the pallid skinned doll (couples therapy hadn’t really hit big in 1955, I’m thinking). However, the demon had an ulterior motive (in other news: water is wet) and wanted to lurk inside the doll until it could possess a victim at it’s leisure which makes it even more strange that the couple would take in six, highly possessable girls in the first place. Targeting Janice, this constantly pissed off spirit aims to claim this innocent soul for itself while making life a literal hell for the other girls who simply want to survive the night…

Most prequels fall foul of the fact that by definition you already know how it’s going to end, but Annabelle: Creation luckily leapfrogs this problem thanks to the amusing issue that the previous film was so forgettable, I’d actually forgotten everything about it. Another plus is that previous director John R. Leonetti has been replaced by the far more horror-savy David F. Sandberg who’s career interestingly mirrors franchise kingpin James Wan in that they’ve leapt from the realms of low budget horror into the primary coloured worlds of the DCEU (Wan, Aquaman; Sandberg, Shazam!). Every inch of creepy ambience that Sandberg managed to bring to Lights Out is desperately needed however, because while Annabelle: Creation is noticably superior to it’s annoying drab predecessor, it’s still massively hobbled by a stunningly uninspired script that is satisfied to simply trot out cliches so tired they should to be lead to an easy chair and given a Capri Sun. Once again we have to sit through yet another movie that’s two thirds spooky sounds and one third payoff with a bunch of interchangeable girls screaming for their lives; and while it’s admittedly highly polished, the film offers precisely zero originality.
The cast do whatever it is they need to do but Mirana Otto’s momentum from being in Lord Of The Rings seems to finally ran out as she spends the majority of the film hiding extensive prosthetics under a mask and Anthony LaPaglia literally does nothing but skulk around but even though the younger cast is completely interchangeable (including Shazam! actress Grace Fulton), they bring a much needed sense of energy to the chaotic finale which manages to save the whole enterprise just by randomly stringing together a bunch of cool fright sequences in rapid succession. Noticably memorable is a scene that’s sees one of the girls (fuck knows which one) terrorized in a locked up barn by the demon revealing itself to be hiding within a scarecrow by exposing its claws and slowly ripping the burlap on it’s face to expose it’s features, but thankfully this is one of the few, random images in the Conjuring Universe that hasn’t been given it’s own spinoff (yet) so cheers to that.
Despite overcoming it’s laboured beginning with a spirited climax (pun fully intended), Annabelle drops the ball at the final hurdle by trying to desperately tie it’s events with the beginning of the first movie that means it contorts itself into awkward positions in order to get to the moment a deranged satanist attacks a pregnant Annabelle Wallis in the 1970’s. It’s a clunky end to an uneven movie and really drives home the fact that no one’s ever really expressed the need to see how the deadly dolly came to be. While it falls far short of the Conjuring bar of quality, it’s still quite the step up from Annabelle’s first solo bow – although in hindsight, it’s probably more to do with how stilted the first film was over the quality of the second…

Half hearted adulation for Annabelle’s creation…


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