Directed by John R. Leonetti.
Starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola and Alfre Woodard.
In 1967, new parents Mia and John Form, after surviving a violent encounter with a pair of murderous cult members and losing their house to a fire, find themselves being haunted by a supernatural entity that appears to be connected to a mysterious doll that they have recently acquired. A doll named Annabelle.
Ed and Lorraine Warren, whether you believe them to genuine supernatural experts or just plain old frauds, certainly have many stories to their name that are ripe for the silver screen. And with the massive critical and commercial success of the original The Conjuring, it seems that Hollywood thought the same thing. Thus they quickly put into production what was to be the first of many spin-offs to the main Conjuring series, each focusing on a particular demonic entity before they ran into the Warrens.
Unfortunately, the first spin-off was to be the hugely disappointing Annabelle, a film that took one of the most memorable and creepy aspects of the original film and somehow rendered it boring.
Part of what makes Annabelle such a disappointment is that it doesn’t feel like a genuine attempt to explore and expand upon the world set up by the original Conjuring film. Instead, it feels exactly like what many saw it for, a cheap cynical attempt to milk a freshly birthed cash cow before the milk turns sour. This approach leaves the film feeling (and looking) incredibly rushed and cheaply put together, with this fact made even more obvious if you watch both The Conjuring and this film back to back, with the production values, acting and overall quality taking a very noticeable dip. The Conjuring looks like a theatrical presentation, whereas Annabelle looks like it was made on the cheap for TV.
The acting from the cast is largely fine but they aren’t half as memorable as the excellent performances from the original film.
Annabelle Wallis gives a solid if sometimes uneven performance as stressed out mother Mia, and while I don’t wish to criticise her too much, after all, she had to endure starring in Tom Cruise vs The Mummy, Wallis in my view just doesn’t seem suited to being in a horror film. Wallis does fine in the quiet moments but she often comes across as uncomfortable and awkward in the more intense scenes, with her giving possibly the most obviously forced and lacklustre screams I think I’ve ever heard in a horror film.
Of the supporting cast, only Alfre Woodard makes any kind of real impression in her role as the friendly bookstore owner Evelyn, a rather stock character that Woodard makes the best of with. But really, Woodard’s only here so her characters tragic backstory can serve a frankly unnecessary and out of place final sacrifice in the film’s climax. Now if she played the part with the same level of sassy bravado as she plays Mariah in Luke Cage then we might have had something interesting here, but sadly we don’t.
In terms of scares, the film very much falls flat with it often being a barrage of dull jump scares, creaky doors and thunder and lightning flashes. It’s all very stock and all very predictable with some moments such as an elevator door repeatedly opening on the dark basement being so overused that it feels it’s on the verge of parody. It’s all been seen and done before and better (like in The Conjuring) and frankly it’s all very boring at this point.
While the film as a whole is about as scary as a visit to your grandmothers, one moment in which the sounds of a baby screaming fill an empty basement did make me creep me out somewhat, probably because it taps into my deep fear of fatherhood and how I’m utterly ill-prepared to have children. Also, I’m just scared of babies in general. And let’s not forget that that bloody doll is creepy regardless of how mediocre the film around it might be. There’s just something about those empty eyes that feel like they are peering out at you as you watch the film in the dark.
With rather unremarkable characters, a lack of any real scares and an overall rushed and cheap approach to proceedings Annabelle is a massive disappointment that almost wastes the potential set up by the previous film. I say almost wastes because there is still some potential left in the film and thankfully it’s potential that the film’s prequel would pick up the slack on. Before we can talk about the Awakening though, we have to head to Enfield.
Scare Rating: 🎃
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★