Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Stephanie Sigman, Lulu Wilson
Plot: An orphanage finds a new home with a grieving couple, mourning the loss of their daughter and suffering the malice of her old toy doll.
Annabelle’s strongest card is the fact that, even after three movies featuring the villainous, yet wondrously understated, doll, we haven’t really got a clue what she is about. While horror movie franchises suffer with the fact, by the fourth film we know all the tricks up, say Paranormal Activity’s, sleeve, Annabelle reigns supreme by the fact that, simply put, we know so little about her. All we truly know is that whenever that creepy doll ends up in a house, bad things happen. While the first Annabelle film began to spin a back story and Creation further develops a few beats, suggesting the wider story, there is still an absence of set scares. As a result, anything goes with Creation, a factor that makes this film far better than you would expect it to be.
Don’t get too excited. As far as horror goes, this is still a watered down Conjuring or Insidious, and far from the intelligent high-brow horror such as Babadook and It Follows. Its job is to simply provide a decent array of jump scares and memorable imagery. Annabelle: Creation does feel bloated in the fact the director is unsure where to place faith in the creeps. All of the stops are pulled out which does give Annabelle: Creation the sense of being a generic horror, rather than a film with its own identity. We get creepy children wandering around the household, demonic figures in family photos, even a scarecrow is pulled out of the bag. It doesn’t help that Annabelle is still a spin-off from a much better film. You are craving for the directional talents of James Wan to step in and add a bit of creativity to the routine. As it stands, Annabelle is still a movie series, fighting for relevance, a producer sitting in an office somewhere, crossing his fingers that this will take off and make him a lot of money. The scares are decent enough in a cinema, the surround sound and lack of a pause button, making lengthy shots where young orphan girls hover around ‘that door they should never go in’, all the more unbearable, but one wonders if a DVD rental of this movie would have the same ghostly effects. That being said, I watched the previous Annabelle movie in the same setting and that was nowhere near as good as this movie. Creation spends a short while building up its characters, breaking away from the stock horror stereotypes, before being allowed to tear into them. The leads are predominantly young orphan girls, ranging from the stock fifteen year old girl thinking about boys for the first time to a doe-eyed girl under 10 and highly susceptible to the going-ons in the house. Annabelle: Creation does steal pointers from Insidious 3 in having the lead be a disabled girl, but when it features sequences where the poor victim is fleeing from the evil spirit on a painfully slow stairlift, it is hard to condemn Sandberg’s borrowing. Yes, it starts slow, spending time on playful horror (the audience’s sharp intake of breath when one of the young girls accidentally hits Annabelle with a toy gun said it all), but this allows the film to explode into all-out terror in the final half hour. While the supporting cast are bloated, it does mean that when each character is running from its own personal demon, we are on the edges of our seats. Shock deaths, gruesome corpses and chilling scares hit almost constantly building into the perfect Friday night horror-fest. And at the centre of it all, Annabelle. Still gloriously immobile, no cheap Chucky-like tricks watering down the horror. She is almost too easy to use, whenever she is on-screen, the audience captivated. Perhaps, while Creation is strong at what it does, Annabelle hasn’t been given the lead role she deserves. However, when her stand-alone movies are this amusingly creepy, she will have plenty more chances to work her way into the Horror Hall of Fame.
Final Verdict: Routine horror, but promisingly effective. Better executed than her last prequel, Annabelle is becoming more essential to the horror canon than ever before.