Annabelle: Creation is a terrible title. It’s one step away from Annabelle: Origins and makes about as much sense. The poster for the flick is even worse utilising, as it does, practically every horror movie poster cliché known to man (spooky house? Check. Mist? Check. Creepy kid? Check. Creepy doll? Check. Creepy well? Check). Hardcore genre fans know not to trust such things. They’re mostly designed by committees trying to sell these movies to the Friday night crowd. Even trailers nowadays, sometimes, lead us astray.
In the case of Annabelle: Creation, however, both its terrible title and that eyesore of a poster are right on the money.
Our story begins in olden times, where a kindly doll-maker and his wife make a handsome living in their picturesque country pile alongside a cutesy daughter who dies suddenly in a tragic accident. Fast forward twelve years (this length of time is never explained, but it does come into play later) and the couple have graciously offered their home up to a group of orphaned young girls, who are led in turn by a nun so holy she may as well spend the whole movie adjusting her halo.
Lifelong pals Linda (Lulu Wilson, who also starred in Ouija: Origin Of Evil, the poor child) and Janice (Talitha Bateman) are initially enamoured with their new home, particularly as poor Jan is partially disabled and loves the pre-installed elevator that helps her get upstairs and definitely will not malfunction when things start to get spooky. Before too long though, locked closets are opened and the titular doll reappears to cause havoc once more by doing pretty much the exact same thing she did the first time around: nothing.
Full disclosure: I hated Lights Out, David F. Sandberg’s previous film. It wasn’t in the least bit scary, was hugely predictable and he seemed to be of the opinion that the best way to create tension was to make everything super loud. A lot of those same problems have been carried into Sandberg’s sophomore feature. Most egregiously for a horror movie, every single scare is telegraphed to within an inch of its life thanks to the creeping score, very specific camera angles and the volume being turned up to eleven. All that’s missing is a big, flashing neon sign telling us “SOMETHING SCARY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN”.
Add to this the fact that every single scare is a jump scare and we’re in real trouble. The performances are all fine across the board–the kids do well in underwritten roles–but the dialogue is clunky as hell (“I wish we were going to a home instead of another orphanage” one child gravely intones) and nobody behaves the way any rational human being would once things go awry. There is a moment that suggests a little girl sleeps in her socks and boots, which is a detail I wouldn’t have noticed if there was anything else of note going on.
The creature effects on the demon played by Joseph Bishara, who’s done some great work in The Conjuring and Insidious movies (he was the Darth Maul looking dude), Tales Of Halloween, etc. and is always a safe bet/welcome addition, are pretty solid but they distract from the fact that the actual doll isn’t the focus. Imagine if Chucky was just sitting there motionlessly while Tiffany (or, in fact, Jennifer Tilly) ran around doing his dirty work. It’s weird. It doesn’t make any sense when the movie is named after her.
Restricting Jan’s movement partially, and later entirely once she’s stuck in a wheelchair, is a clever way to elicit tension but it’s been done before, and better, as recently as in 2013’s Curse Of Chucky. Speaking of whom, there’s a reason that bratty little dolly is so scary and it’s because he actually moves. There is one sequence where Annabelle does the same (it’s under a sheet, so it may very well be Casey Affleck under there, we just don’t know) and it’s easily the strongest in the whole film.
Otherwise, Sandberg just shoots her head on, sitting there motionlessly, and hopes that the closer he zooms in, the more scared we’ll be. A shot of her in a rocking chair, going back and forth in the dark, glimpsed through a keyhole, is so unintentionally goofy it’s almost sad. The doll not moving wasn’t such a big deal in Annabelle because the concept was still relatively fresh. Now it feels about as worn out as the bloody thing looks. And it doesn’t help that the movie around her is derivative, predictable and deadeningly dull.
That’s not to say Annabelle: Creation won’t hit the spot for casual moviegoers looking for a cheap scare, but it’s depressing to see a horror movie this creatively bankrupt getting more attention from mainstream audiences than the likes of It Comes At Night, Raw or Personal Shopper, all of which packed a considerable emotional punch as well as being proper scary. A shock of gore comes and goes with barely a nod of recognition, completely unearned and jarringly out of place, while the ending is a big middle finger to anyone still watching (this movie is almost two hours long–seriously) that has also been done better elsewhere.
You know that moment, at the top of a ride, when you think the drop is coming but it actually happens five seconds later and it just makes it so much worse? Annabelle: Creation drops you right away, exactly when you know it’s going to. That’s how lazy this movie is. Avoid at all costs unless you’re a Conjuring Universe completist for whatever reason.
WICKED RATING: 2/10
Director(s): David F. Sandberg
Writer(s): Gary Dauberman
Stars: Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Anthony La Paglia, Miranda Otto
Release: August 11th, 2017
Studio/ Production Co: New Line Cinema
Length: 109 minutes