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Annabelle: Creation

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 11, 2017
'Annabelle: Creation'
'Annabelle: Creation'  

"The Conjuring" universe keeps getting bigger what with new spin-off movies about "The Nun" and "The Crooked Man" (both from "The Conjuring 2" just announced. But the first spin-off about the infamous devil doll Annabelle now gets its own prequel, and it (thankfully) surpasses the original in spades.

The first film took place before the events of the first "The Conjuring" film and told the tale of a pregnant woman being haunted by a really unattractive doll she received as a gift. The film was slow-paced, hardly scary, and added nothing to the mythology of the doll itself.

"Annabelle Creation" adopts the tone and feel of "The Conjuring" films with bigger scares, a sense of humor, and good acting. It's a welcome surprise and makes you wish that the first Annabelle film didn't happen at all. (Although it gets tied in nicely in the end.)

The story begins in the '40s, where a quiet, grumpy dollmaker (Anthony Lapaglia) and his wife (Miranda Otto) are living a peaceful existence with their daughter Bee (Samara Lee) in a Midwestern farmhouse. But tragedy strikes and Bee is killed.

Cut to 12 years later, and that same couple decides (inexplicably) to take in six orphaned girls and their caretaker Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Signman). Oddly, Mr. Mullins is still distant and grumpy, and Mrs. Mullins is depressed, bedridden and wears a half mask. So the place is creepy to begin with, and its inhabitants are clearly sort of weird.

The orphans consist of girls ranging in age from about nine to 17, and the two we mainly focus on are Janice (an excellent Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson who already did this sort of thing in "Ouija: Origin of Evil"). Janice is crippled with polio, and Linda is her best friend. The two are outcasts from the group and stay in a room separate from the other girls. This affords them to be haunted good by whatever is attached to the Mullin's house -- and (of course) for noone to believe them.

The storyline of the film is nothing we haven't seen before. There are dark rooms. Doors that slam. Doors that open by themselves. Lights that turn off and on. Creepy scarecrows. Glowing eyes. And, of course, a disturbing looking doll. You name it, this movie has it. But because of the expertise of director David Sandberg ("Lights Out") the film still works.

You can see things being set up a mile away, but all of it is still hair-raising. But not in an, "I'm so terrified I won't be able to sleep tonight" way. More of an "I'm having a lot of fun with this" way. Sandberg knows how to create suspense without the overuse of loud noises and cheap jolts. He allows his camera to linger and move quietly and to have unnerving things happen in silence.

Sure, there are some things that felt unbelievable. Frequently, characters scream, yet no one hears them even though people are a stone's throw away. Many times when characters are describing terrifying things that happen to them, they leave out important details that would make the listener pause and reconsider their doubt.

But that's to be expected. The delight here is the use of comedy to bring relief to the audience, and to address the fact that the whole thing is just sort of silly, even when it's horrifying. (In one scene a demon-type creature tries to drag one of the girls away. She narrowly escapes and her caretaker screams, "What is that?" The girl responds, "Who cares, just run!"

This is just a gloriously fun haunted house thrill ride that gets the audience totally immersed in its silly, but involving, story. It's one of those horror movies that makes you giggle at your own fright and implores you to yell at the screen to "not go in there!" This might seem surprising since the focus is a porcelain doll, but writer Gary Dauberman (the upcoming "It") has other tricks up his sleeve so Annabelle isn't quite what we think she is.

What she is, however, is an entertaining, scary, summer surprise that is a welcome addition to the "Conjuring" franchise and will make you pause the next time you see an antique doll sitting in a rocking chair, waiting to take your soul.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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