Written by Gary Dauberman and directed by John R. Leonetti, Annabelle; the prequel the 2013’s The Conjuring, has been highly anticipated by the horror world.
We learn that before The Conjuring, Annabelle was owned by a young couple named Mia (Annabelle Wallis- X-Men: First Class) and John (Ward Horton- The Wolf of Wall Street). In the run-up to the birth of their first child, medical student John buys his wife the doll as a gift for her extensive collection. As the due date nears, a horrific attack in the form of a pair of Satanic cultists that end up dead in their home leaves Mia injured and shaken. The female cultist just happens to be named Annabelle Higgins, and some of her blood lands on the doll Annabelle. It’s not long before Mia starts seeing shadowy figures, hearing strange noises and realizing that something evil wants her baby.
At the request of his wife John disposes of Annabelle because she finds her creepy, only for Mia to find the doll among the boxes as they move into a new apartment. Deciding to keep her Mia places her on a shelf above their new baby Leah’s crib. When Mia again starts seeing things and becomes paralyzed by fear in their home husband John begins to doubt his wife’s sanity.
Neighborhood friend Evelyn (Alfre Woodard- 12 Years a Slave) comforts Mia while the demon gets increasingly impatient with what it wants. Coming home to a screaming wife John finally brings in Father Perez (Tony Amendola- Blow), who explains what might be happening and tries to take the demonic doll from their apartment, unsuccessfully of course.
Much like The Conjuring the cast is good and definitely helps the script. Annabelle Wallis was a solid scream queen and definitely brought realism and intensity to her role. Ward Horton who plays her beloved husband is also decent though his role is not as involved. Tony Amendola is great as their local Priest who plays a bigger part in the story towards the end, and Alfre Woodard is decent as a concerned neighbor who befriends our heroine.
Even though the movie avoided a few stereotypes such as an exorcism, some parts were still highly predictable. From the scared housewife and disbelieving husband, to the heroic actions of a pastor attempting to save a young family and the wise old woman who offers her hand.
Annabelle still just about manages to convince with its credible acting performances, solid camera work, fitting sound effects and an atmospheric soundtrack. While the main thrill-building tool involves things jumping out at you, and the movie ends with questions to a story that disintegrates before it reaches a satisfying conclusion, I still feel it was worth watching. One of my favorite scenes involves a storage unit in the basement and an elevator.
If you were a fan of the small snippet of Annabelle’s story shown in The Conjuring and wanted a terrifying and in-depth origins story, then you will be disappointed that the story isn’t as fully explored as it could have been. But it’s nice to see Annabelle again. We’ve all missed her.
WICKED RATING: 6/10 [usr 6]
Director(s): John R. Leonetti
Writer(s): Gary Dauberman
Stars: Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard
Studio/ Production Co: New Line Cinema, Evergreen Media Group, RatPac-Dune Entertainment
Budget: $6,500,000 (estimated)
Sub-Genre: Based on true events