ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017)
(Directed by David F. Sandberg)
(Written by Gary Dauberman)
(Starring Lulu Wilson, Miranda Otto and Stephanie Sigman)
Plot: Set during the 1950’s, Samuel and Esther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) are the grieving parents of a young girl named Annabelle, who perished in a freak accident 12 years prior. The couple decide to offer their…isolated…spooky…farmhouse to a group of girls whose orphanage had just closed down. Strange things begin to occur, all surrounding a creepy doll…
This new trend of shitty horror films producing surprisingly good sequels is…weird…First, the sin against cinema known as “Ouija” was washed away by “Ouija: Origin of Evil” and now “Annabelle: Creation” has begun nursing the wounds left in the wake of “Annabelle“. While “Annabelle” didn’t receive quite the critical raping that “Ouija” did, I personally hated it a lot more because it’s my least favorite kind of film- one made without a shred of imagination or creativity…or any sense of unintentional hilarity. I watch a lot of shitty films, some being far more incompetent from technical and storytelling perspectives, but “Annabelle” was so cliched and phoned-in that I still suspect it wasn’t created by real people, but by machines. For me, that’s more boring than the more notoriously bad “Ouija”. “Annabelle: Creation” isn’t necessarily pushing new grounds in terms of story, relying on all of the familiar tropes and conventions. There isn’t any depth or surprises and a large part of the middle block almost starts to resemble filler…admittedly spooky filler, but the plot ceases to advance in favor of freaking out the audience- for better or worse. The characters are all pretty standard as well, yet the cast makes their characters likable and interesting enough. The acting was so good that I started to care for their plights, even if said plights are a bit too common amongst this genre. “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2“- remember that this is supposed to be a prequel to those films- had stronger characters and there was more creativity within their stories. Those movies had more heart to them and since I already made the comparison earlier, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” also had a stronger script, with a more complex cast of characters. That isn’t to say that “Annabelle: Creation” fails in any of these areas. It just doesn’t excel, but for what it’s worth, I can’t even remember the characters or plot of its immediate predecessor outside of the presence of the titular doll, so it’s an improvement either way.
But where “Annabelle: Creation” does excel is crafting chills and thrills. The director is David F. Sandberg, who made his debut with “Lights Out” and both films have similar tones and styles. Once again, the director makes a menace out of darkness, using it to obscure the presence of the doll, the possessed girl or the entity plaguing them all. Sandberg sure loves the ‘glowing eyes’ effect, especially when the rest of the body is silhouetted in blackness, but the visual freaked me out every time he relied on it, so I’m not complaining. Even though I enjoyed “Lights Out“, “Annabelle: Creation” is definitely the ‘scarier’ of the two, as more effort was put into building up tension so that the jump gives us a proper release. It helps that he has a great location to work with, as there is a lot of farm-themed equipment and aesthetics that looks freaky in the right lighting. One of the problems I had with the first film is that the titular doll didn’t seem that powerful when first introduced in “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle“- according to my review, I can’t remember the movie itself- barely did anything different with her. The problem with the doll concept is that unless you go the “Puppet Master” or “Child’s Play” route, there isn’t much you can do with her on-screen, but “Annabelle: Creation” expands upon what she is capable without taking her abilities too far. The cinematographer makes sure that Annabelle always looks unsettling, but the director doesn’t rely on the appearance of the prop, instead balancing the screen-time amongst the Annabelle doll, the possessed girl, a scarecrow and ‘something’ lurking in the darkness. This kept the scares fresh and exciting. “Annabelle: Creation” boasts excellent editing, cinematography and sound design, but I think it benefited a lot from the eccentric tone. Much like “Lights Out“, “Annabelle: Creation” is the fun kind of horror movie, one designed to make the audience shriek and laugh at the same time. I viewed it alongside an enthusiastic crowd and they really heightened the experience for me. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a great film and no one is going to remember it as a classic, but it is a good fright-fest and was the spin-off that Annabelle deserved. It’s nice that these sequels are redeeming their crappy predecessors, but I’d rather not have to suffer through the likes of “Annabelle” just to be able to appreciate the likes of “Annabelle: Creation“. Can “The Nun“- the next spin-off in this franchise- get it right the first time around? Please?