Possessed dolls, orphans, and a spooky house. Does Annabelle bring anything new to the horror table?
Written By: Nigel Asipa
There must be something inherently evil or at least unnerving about dolls or figurines with big eyes right? Look at Chucky, he has this frenzied, maniacal look about him that it would seem almost irresponsible of the manufacturers to sell them as such.
The Anabelle doll is the artefact of The Conjuring universe that has accrued much intrigue from fans of the franchise that James Wan and company decided to deepen the mythology by going as far back as the 40’s to chronicle the story of what eventually lead to the Warrens couple taking on the supernatural forces that terrorizes the uninitiated and unprepared.
We follow the Mullens, played by Anthony LaPlagia and Miranda Otto as the owners of The Mullens Toy Company, along with their beloved daughter, Anabelle. It’s not long before the family is hit by tragedy and have been trying to recover ever since. Pressing on several years later, they invite a group of young orphaned girls to their home as the girls’ orphanage was closed down.
We get a complex shot of the girls bedazzled by the Mullen’s home as they’re not used to this kind of hospitality, all except one room which is inhabited by the wife who shall I say isn’t comfortable in showing herself to anyone these days. Janice who is slowly recovering from polio is the first to be suspicious that something is off about this house. The rest of the girls are intent on exploring the rest of the place which could prove disrespect to the Mullens as there is another place in particular that is warded off by Mr Mullen as strictly forbidden.
Anabelle Creation surprises as the most effective horror so far this year by promising new filmmaker, David F. Sandberg who helmed the equally effective horror trip, Lights Out from last year. By no means is this venture ground breaking in anyway, the narrative itself is pretty much paint by numbers and is fairly predictable.
This is a case where the craftsmanship elevates the material. Sandberg makes efficient use of authentic set design to sell the period, effective cinematography that frames its subjects in the corner to make the creepy imagery all the more obscure and lighting that evokes an eerie atmosphere. He uses drawn out silences to create a sustained amount of threat and dread, and draws uniformly strong performances from his cast. It’s all these aesthetics along with editing, sound design and a musical score that gives the whole piece a sense of personality and helps it make it a standalone piece in the franchise.
I wasn’t so much scared, but unsettled and that’s enough. I cared enough about everyone involved that I was competing against the movie to not let it get the drop on me. I clenched my fists, held my breath and felt queasy enough to look everywhere and listen to everything. There’s quite a few jump scares in the beginning as the creepo-factor doesn’t come in until the end of the first act and that could be tiresome for some.
Anabelle: Creation is this years, Ouija: origin of evil. Both use age old jump scares done in unique and interesting ways and both are superior to their immediate predecessor (admittedly I haven’t seen Ouija as it’s largely considered bad and the original Anabelle I turned off after 45 minutes as the acting, pacing and set design were quite poor).
It’s a worthy chapter in the Conjuring canon, and with ‘The Nun’ spinoff on the horizon, Creation keeps the franchise strong and relevant that make for good late night viewing.
P.S. Just want to say something to all moviegoers before I leave this review. It is rude and selfish to have your phone on at any point during the runtime of a film. As soon as the lights dim, your phone should be as dim. You paid to see it, so why have half your attention on your phone? Which by the way, you run the risk of being approached by the staff of recording it. Even if you’re not invested in what’s going on in front of you, there are those beside or behind you that are. If you have something important to do on your phone, go outside. Sit close to the exit if you really can’t keep off it. OK, rant over.