Directed by John R. Leonetti.
Starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard, Brian Howe, Kerry O’Malley, and Eric Ladin.
A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.
Last year’s unexpectedly fantastic The Conjuring was so suspenseful to watch because director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) took his time building up to some legitimately frightening scenes, and actually told a fairly intriguing mystery. By the time viewers had reached the climax of The Conjuring they had witnessed a slow burn full of subtle scares that overtime escalated into an unequivocally frightening possession scene. There weren’t many cheap scares, the characters felt real, and the danger gradually increased as the movie went on. Essentially, it had some of the best pacing seen in a horror film in a very long time, which resulted in a film that actually kept getting scarier and scarier as you continued to watch. That’s a rarity these days for horror.
We have switched directors though with Annabelle. Who is in charge you ask? John R. Leonetti, or simply the director of freaking Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which is arguably the worst adaptation of a video game ever, and that’s a loaded statement considering how awful movies based on games tend to be. If Ben Affleck can go from directing Gigli to winning an Oscar with Argo though, maybe there’s hope for John R. Leonetti.
All of that suspenseful buildup from The Conjuring? Gone. Within the first 15 minutes of Annabelle we’re already seeing our happily married couple attacked by crazed cultist neighbors. Apparently, because the blood of these satanists touches the Annabelle doll that husband and doctor John (Ward Horton) bought his wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis) , it awakens as a supernatural spirit. First of all, I don’t know why anyone would even want such a filthy, disgusting, creepy looking doll, even if it does happen to somehow be a collectors item. Do you know any sane people that collect creepy looking dolls? Probably not, but Mia has been looking for this particular doll for an extended period of time, and is ecstatic to have it.
Her husband John on the other hand is mentally straight in the head, but inexplicably has a knack for putting on a half-cocked smile in practically every scene. Even during moments of serious dialogue, John can often be seen breaking out into a smile for no real reason. Maybe the actor is just happy to be in a movie. All I know is that it became so distracting, I just began calling himself Smiling Doctor John in my head. To be honest, the most entertaining part of watching Annabelle is watching this guy look like an idiot the whole movie. A doll just burned down your kitchen? Smiling in the next scene.
And speaking of the demonic doll, the things this lady can pull off are beyond absurd. When watching The Conjuring there was a feeling that the hauntings were mostly grounded in reality, while on the other hand this movie abandons grace for your typical jump scares, absolutely preposterous events, and characters so stupid you don’t care whether they live or die. All you want them to do is quit screaming with their terrible acting, or in Smiling Doctor John’s case, wipe that s*** eating grin off his face.
The plot itself is completely predictable at every turn and utilizes almost every possession film cliché we’ve seen in the past 45 movies about demons haunting objects. The ending is also pretty silly, expecting viewers to feel sympathy for a character I cannot imagine anyone will give a damn about. They try throughout various scenes, but ultimately fail. Truthfully I was just glad this person did what they did not because it was an amazing act of courage, but because I knew the movie was finally almost over.
Annabelle does very little right not just as a horror film, but as a movie in general. It is terrible in every regard, from the story, to the scares, to the acting. As a matter of fact, I think the best performance in the film comes from a two-year-old baby. I will say one positive thing though; the time period of the movie is reenacted quite nicely with old-style TVs, appropriate clothing, and detailed sets. You even get to see what a bag of Doritos looked like in the late 60s/ early 70s!
The worst part is that Annabelle tries to piggyback off of the success of The Conjuring during its closing moments, with a final scene displaying text regarding how Annabelle is so dangerous she must be blessed by a priest two times a month. It desperately reeked of the filmmakers wanting viewers to think that because The Conjuring was awesome, this was a great piece of movie-making too. Sorry, but it is anything but good, it’s barely even tolerable to watch. During those closing moments I was just reminded of a movie that was legitimately horrifying, and then one second later depressed that this piece of garbage spin-off was now officially associated with the franchise.
Sadly, Annabelle will probably make money at the box office, meaning Hollywood will green-light even more movies about supernatural artifacts in the Warrens’ Occult Museum. The real winner here is Smiling Doctor John, whose actor is probably smiling all the way to the bank right now.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.