Director: John R. Leonetti
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard
Plot: Expecting couple, Mia and John (Wallis and Horton) find themselves the unwitting target of a satanic cult, which seem drawn to a doll in their collection.
The idea of an Annabelle spin-off was a good one, but I wish the writers thought about the idea a little more than ‘let’s stick Annabelle from the Conjuring in her own movie. Boom! Job done!’
Annabelle turns into a little bit of a mess. The writers aren’t entirely sure how they are meant to extend the Conjuring’s sub villain into a full-length baddie. As it happens, Annabelle turns into a story more about satanic cults than creepy dolls. As we sit through the first half hour waiting for something to happen, the leads are attacked by a pair of devil-worshippers and in the ensuing battle, it is suggested that one of them dies holding the couple’s doll, Annabelle, and therefore transferring some sort of demonic ability into the object. From there on, we are treated to a more traditional horror with the couple denying the existence of the supernatural, while the doll has its wicked way with its surroundings. The best scares were sadly covered in the trailer, which hurts the overall experience, especially as the audience are slightly getting bored of most horror movie monsters being a dark-haired woman in the shadows. As the movie enters its third act, it realises it has to commit to a direction. Therefore, the story fully grabs hold of the demonic tone that they have going on, leading us to the next monster. Yes, it is moderately scary and a handful of scares using this creature admittedly got to me, but, at the same time, it is a pretty silly story development. From then on it is your typical ‘demonic possession’ story with a cop-out ending and an absence of unbridled terror that the Conjuring seemed to work with so naturally.
The problem is that the mediocre scares are the only reason to stay tuned. The characters are so empty, you kind of want Annabelle to have her wicked way with them. Right from the off, they are pretty unlikeable with Mia being personified by her pregnancy hormones (that carry on when she has had the baby), and John remains absent for a surprising amount of the plot. They don’t have much of a story to flesh out the movie, other than ‘wow – life sure is hard!’ They are the main reason Annabelle doesn’t demand a larger viewing, because they are so forgettable. Another disappointment was the fact that Annabelle never embraces its period, whereas the Conjuring actually worked with the era it was based in. The only hints that we are watching a film set in the 60s is that the lead characters haven’t gotten into the habit of locking their doors and a smart little reference to the Warrens. The best character is the baby that brings hilarity to every scene it is in. The first time the baby locks eyes on Annabelle, it fixes the doll with the funniest stare like “Dafuq that thing doing in ma home!” That is the single best scene in the entire film.
Surprisingly, Annabelle gets pushed out of her own movie. She is easily the creepiest thing in the film with the director being able to simply hold a shot on her, throw in a piece of eerie music and we are terrified at the transfixion the doll has on us. She starts the film relatively normal, if a little eerie, but as the burn marks and possession take hold of the doll, she descends into the stuff of nightmares. For the most part, she sits in the background, an observer of the nightmares the characters are living rather than coming across as an active part in it. Perhaps, this is the truly sinister thing at play here. Annabelle has appeared in two films now when the leads have been tormented by the occult, simply watching. Maybe the devil-worshippers didn’t activate Annabelle, but Annabelle activated them. Maybe she is more than a conduit, but a source of evil, bringing malice to whatever family happen to own her at the time. Now that thought is scarier than anything in this movie.
Final Verdict: Annabelle oozes creepiness, but she is trapped in a thrown together story, rushed to get out in time for Halloween. Disappointing.