Annabelle was a terrible movie spun off from the first Conjuring film in an attempt to squeeze more cash out of fans of that series and it was painfully obvious. It made money though and if it worked once, why not try again. So now we have a prequel to a spin-off, but this time that’s not such a bad thing. Flick opens 24 years before Annabelle with the Mullins family (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) losing their daughter Annabelle (Samara Lee) in a terrible accident. Twelve years later, they decide to turn their spacious farmhouse into an orphanage…which makes sense, right? But when lonely, lame Janice (Talitha Bateman) goes into Annabelle’s old room, she finds a creepy doll hidden in a locked closet…and upon opening the door, unleashes something evil that may cost all of them their lives.
This film is loaded with all the haunted house/Conjuring films clichés, but the difference maker is they are used very well by Lights Out director David Sandberg. The script by Gary Dauberman presents all the expected tropes one expects from a haunted house/possessed object movie, but that just gives Sandberg a chance to use them as they are meant to be and provides us with some very creepy and sometimes outright scary moments. Some of it does get a bit over-the-top and there are glaring questions like why the possessed doll wasn’t buried out in a field somewhere and why the Mullins’ brought children into a house that had a demon possessed doll as a tenant. But we do get some answers…if one really cares to ask…about how the doll became all things evil and the cast is very good, including the kids. A spooky and sometimes scary flick, despite being derivative and predictable, thanks to a talented up and coming director.
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I’m not the biggest fan of The Conjuring. It was a well made film and had some spooky moments but, not nearly as good as it’s reputation suggests and it doesn’t hold up with repeat viewings. The film was a big hit, though and as money is what runs Hollywood, they couldn’t wait to pry more cash out of the pockets of The Conjuring‘s audience…and there are few better examples of a heartless, soulless, cash grab than this flick.
The unimaginative story takes place in the 70s, a year before the opening scene of The Conjuring. We have young couple John (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis) expecting their first child and, of course, John celebrates this by buying the creepiest doll possible for his doll collector wife. That night their neighbors are slaughtered by their cultist daughter (Tree O’Toole) and her equally wacky boyfriend who, for some reason, decide to visit Mia and John after slaying mommy and daddy. There is an altercation in which Mia is stabbed but, the police arrive and kill the boyfriend while the daughter “Annabelle” commits suicide while holding the creepy doll…for the sole reason of setting up a horror film. Mia survives, as does their newborn daughter but, before you can say “burning Jiffy-Pop” the couple are besieged with every overused cliché in the horror movie manual as some demonic force has come to claim the baby’s soul.
With flat and by-the-numbers direction from John R. Leonetti and a completely unimaginative script by Gary Dauberman, this film can only be seen as the transparent attempt for quick cash that it is. There is literally nothing we haven’t seen before here and that would be fine if Leonetti directed these horror tropes with even the slightest bit of passion or energy. It barely follows a cohesive story as it runs through every cliché it can in it’s 99 minutes. We get flashing lights, dolls changing position, thrown out objects returning to their owners…without much concern either…and demonic creatures glimpsed in the shadows. We also get the stereotypical character who knows all about the occult and just happens to run a book shop down the block. Conveniently there to befriend and then help the embattled couple, since the stereotypical holy man only gets bitch-slapped by the evil force. This flick rips off practically every demonic evil and haunting movie that’s come before it and does so brazenly…it actually takes balls to blatantly rip-off the climax of one of the greatest horror movies ever made and not even have the respect to pay homage or give it a nod. At least James Wan freshened up the familiar material. They don’t even try here and that is the most insulting thing of all about this flick, the incredibly lazy, lack of effort to even remotely create something actually of merit. Did the director even show up on set? The wooden performances by it’s leads…and it almost takes an effort to get a boring performance out of Alfre Woodward…and the totally bland camera set-ups, makes me question if Leonetti was home watching The View and counting his money on his couch while one of his production assistants hit the “on” button on the camera. There is just no heart or effort in this film at all.
Annabelle is a completely obvious…and sadly successful…prequel/spin-off that doesn’t even have the cleverness to at least be cohesive with the film it is a prequel to. In The Conjuringit’s stated that there actually is no real Annabelle, it was a name the demon made up in the guise of a child spirit, yet, here we have a character named Annabelle whose death with the doll gives it it’s name. Did Dauberman even watch Wan’s flick?This is not only a complete waste of time but, a sad example of how little the studio beancounters care about the fans of a hit film. I can undertand wanting to keep the momentum going till Wan gets around to an actual sequel but, at least try to give the audience something worth their hard-earned cash…at least TRY! Not the worst movie I’ve seen but, lazy to the point of insulting.
I’m not a huge fan of the overrated The Conjuring. It was a well made haunted house flick but, didn’t really knock my cinematic socks off like it did others. But, it was a hit and instead of bringing us another case from The Warrens, producer James Wan has decided to hit us with a spin-off featuring the doll ‘Annabelle’ from The Conjuring‘s opening scenes… um, Ok… so, here is the first teaser from the John Leonetti directed flick and it looks kinda…meh. Leonetti has been Wan’s cinematographer since Dead Silence and is a damn good one as Wan’s flicks look great. As a director he had only done two flicks, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Butterfly Effect 2 so… not sure what to expect here. We’ll see 10/3/14.