Directed by John R. Leonetti.
Starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola and Alfre Woodard.
A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.
Expectations were high after 2013’s superbly constructed horror The Conjuring graced our screen. Unfortunately the prequel Annabelle was a dull and lifeless 98 minutes that I will never get back. A well-crafted trailer (the marketing team behind that deserve every award going) promised great scares and a truly creepy premise. However, the film plods along at a snail’s pace and everything that should be scary is shown in the trailer and has no effect.
After making a brief and terrifying appearance in The Conjuring, everyone wanted to know more about Annabelle and I was looking forward to this prequel. But the film is badly acted, slow and is unable to build the slightest amount of tension. The film follows an apple pie American family who are attacked by two satanic cult members. After a fire devastates their home, they move to a gigantic apartment where strange things start to happen. Annabelle Wallis as the struggling Mother Mia does her best with the material but is given nothing more to do then walk slowly around this giant apartment throwing terrified glances at the Annabelle doll. Ward Horton as her husband John seems to have a smarmy grin on his face throughout the entire film and scenes of deep conversation are ruined by his glazed over expression. Support from Tony Amendola as a kindly priest and Alfre Woodard as a neighbour with knowledge of the occult is welcomed but both actors have to work off a script seemingly written by a 12 year old. In fact the best acting throughout the film comes from Mia and John’s young baby. She at least offers a few laughs and brings some life to the screen.
Director John R. Leonetti who acted as DoP on The Conjuring and Insidious seems to have forgotten how to build tension on screen. His biggest directing credits have included Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2 and he hasn’t done any better with Annabelle. Although the time period setting is created well, that’s about as beautiful as the film gets. Each shot feels laboriously long and there seems to be little flare from him behind the camera. The reason that The Conjuring was so successful was because it built tension throughout. There were a few cheap scares but it was constructed in a way that made you sit on the edge of your seat throughout. With Annabelle I was firmly at the back of my seat battling to keep my eyes from closing. There is no tension and as I sat there I checked off each scary moment as it came by and thought “there are a couple more jumps I saw in the trailer and then this film should end.”
Annabelle was always going to be compared to The Conjuring and it’s a shame that for me the film was a complete dud. It’s a difficult task to construct a truly effective horror, but it feels that no effort was put into Annabelle. The backstory for her is almost laughable and makes hardly any sense. Horror is known for being riddled with plotholes but this film takes it to a whole new level. Why does Annabelle need to steal a soul, how is she able to disappear, why is she attached to this one family, why can she be safely kept in a glass box? What worked so well in The Conjuring as a secondary character is ruined here with a rushed script with laughably bad dialogue.
A few jumps (largely due to loud noises) are not enough to keep the film interesting and the constant walking around a house which worked so well with Sinister, is instead duller than watching paint dry.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter
You can listen to the Flickering Myth Podcast review of Annabelle using the player below: