Annabelle: Creation Review
is a lot better than it has any right to be. The prequel to the lacklustre spin-off of the 2013 hit The Conjuring, nobody can be blamed for not expecting much more than the low-effort, big-payout formula of mainstream horror that has little creativity but a quota of one jump-scare per five minutes of screentime. Yet, whilst Annabelle: Creation is by no means perfect, it shares a quality with last year’s Ouija movie prequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil, in that this time they actually got someone who was willing to put in some effort and make a good movie rather than an easy one.
Years after a tragic accident leads to the death of their daughter, a dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife (Miranda Otto) open their home to a group of orphan girls, watched over by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). Best friends Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson) are always together, even though Janice’s inability to walk properly sets her apart from the other girls. Janice finds a very familiar doll locked away in a cupboard and that is when the nightmare really begins.
Director David F. Sandberg’s previous film was Lights Out, an expansion of his own short film and a story of a family being tormented by a particularly heliophobic ghost that can only be seen in darkness. It was a pretty good and effective little supernatural horror that made the most of its premise and had a surprisingly strong theme at its core about toxic relationships. It is that sensibility and understanding of horror that Sandberg brings to Annabelle: Creation. He knows what makes things scary and what works. Jump-scares are utilised, but never to the extent that they feel cheap. There are even a few really creative and interesting scares. Light and shadows are also used to great effect throughout the film and moments are shot beautifully, although I do wish people would at least try to turn the lights on before walking into the creepy corridor for once.
There is always a danger with horror movies that focus on children for the child actor’s performances to let things down, but both the young leads, particularly Lulu Wilson who also appeared in Ouija: Origin of Evil, do a good job. They are backed up by some solid supporting turns from the adults, particularly Stephanie Sigman as the girls’ caretaker Sister Charlotte. It would have been nice if Miranda Otto had been given a bit more to do as her performance has some nice shades to it, but what we get she works with well.
The problem with the movie is that ultimately there is very little to it. To its credit it does fit into the first movie with minimal continuity fuzziness, something that is welcome to see as studios don’t always seem to be concerned about that with their shared universe. Although we find out that whilst the demonic entity carries over into the first movie the physical doll is different, so apparently this demon is a collector and wants to possess every doll in this limited edition line. We can then look forward to about 100 Annabelle movies in the future. Now that is a little scary.
What is less scary is the particular style of demon that has appeared in James Wan connected movies pops up again here with significantly less impact than when we first caught that terrifying glimpse of one in Insidious. It’s more funny than anything else to see them at this point. Also borrowed from Insidious is the attempt to make an innocent song scary; then it was Tiptoe Through the Tulips, here it is You Are My Sunshine. We’ve seen this all before and it wasn’t even done that well the first time. There are also a few unintentionally funny moments, such as when Janice approaches the ghost girl asking what she wants, to which the ghost spins around and screams “YOUR SOUL!” It really messes with the tone and when so much of the film is done well things like this really stand out.
Annabelle: Creation is ultimately carnival food; fun at the time, but you don’t feel very nourished or full afterwards, and sometimes that is perfectly okay but if you want a bit more substance you will have to look elsewhere.