Annabelle: Creation Review
Scaring young children is child’s play for the demonic force at the heart of Annabelle: Creation
A group of orphaned girls find themselves falling victim to the evil force residing within a not-quite-so-innocent looking doll in Annabelle: Creation.This is the fourth film to be set within the Conjuring universe and the second film to feature that creepy as hell doll at the centre, after making a brief appearance in the 2013 film The Conjuring. Aiming to give some perhaps unnecessary, but entertaining all the same, backstory to the doll, Annabelle: Creation goes right back to the beginning and sets up the first film Annabelle (2014) and also alludes to another film to be released in the franchise – The Nun. Set in the 1940s, doll maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) live together with their young daughter Bee (Samara Lee) in a beautiful house set in the Californian hills. Their lives couldn’t be better it seemed, that is until tragedy strikes one Sunday after church.Cut to twelve years later and the once enthusiastic doll maker is now a quiet shell of his former existence and his wife is bedridden, hidden away in a downstairs bedroom behind a closed door. In an effort to inject some life back into their home, Samuel opens his the doors of his now run down house to a group of 6 orphaned girls and their guardian Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). Not perturbed by either the isolation or the now eerie looking house with its long dark corridors the girls explore their new digs. All but Janice (Talitha Bateman), who has one leg in a brace as a result of polio and is forced to take things at a slower pace. But luckily for her Samuel had a stairlift installed so that Janice is able to move between the two floors.
It’s not long before Janice is exploring the house on her own, specifically one locked room that she has been distinctly told not to go in. The discovery of a doll dressed in a white dress with a red ribbon quickly sets things into motion and soon enough the lights start flickering and the shadows begin to shift in the background. Added to this is the fact that Mrs Mullins is nowhere to be seen with the two older girls telling spooky stories about the lady of the house to scare the younger ones. Eventually realising that an evil presence is lurking within the house, one that is preying on her because she is weaker than the others, Janice tries her best to warn the others before it’s too late.
Marking this the second feature film of his career, with Lights Outbeing the first, David F. Sandberg demonstrates his penchant for and ability to make scary movies. With a limited and at times struggling script written by Gary Dauberman (Annabelle) Sandberg makes good use of what he has to work with in an effort to deliver some decent jumps and scares while making what could have been pointless addition to this film franchise worthwhile. Sandberg’s use of framing works effortlessly in creating unease and tension as audiences are beckoned to search the screen, looking for whatever it is that’s lurking in the darkness. Yes there are some of those typically annoying horror conventions, but they are worked into the film well enough that they can be over looked and you can almost forgive them because it is a horror film and if characters didn’t sometimes do stupid things there would ultimately be no film.
Sandberg ups the ante in his second film, playing with light and shadows to deliver a few good scares
The film is a bit slow to begin with, as it sets up all the backstory and exposition, but once it gets going it rarely lets up and doesn’t rely on the same scare tactics throughout. Scary movie buffs will probably be able to identify when the scares are coming but they are each varied enough to remain engaging. The music by Benjamin Wallfisch isn’t over used and at times works to punctuate the suspense while at other times is omitted for silence which amps up the tension even more, maintaining that shrill score found within the other films from the franchise.
The ensemble cast varies throughout with ability and screen time/development leaving most of the work to Janice, who along with her best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson also in Ouija: Origin of Evil) are decent enough throughout the film to keep the momentum ticking along. LaPaglia and Otto are given just enough screen time to fill in some narrative blanks and are each given their moment to shine, albeit a moment that's brief and slightly gruesome. Sigman’s Sister Charlotte is convincing as a carer for the young girls but not quite as a nun. She needed to have some definite religious gusto to her that unfortunately her character lacked.
Annabelle: Creation was much better that I expected it to be, and is definitely superior to Annabelle – the previous film in the series. It’s an easy watch that despite being at times slightly predictable, as well as being rather tame on the gore front and death count, does make for a good watch. The storyline is simple and follows in the same vein as the other films in the franchise as well as Wan’s Insidious films. Additionally it follows directly onto Annabelle neatly tying both films together and the ending is a nice nod towards the ‘true’ story surrounding the actual Annabelle doll.
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