Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Annabelle: Creation (2017) - Horror Film Review

To say I was disappointed with 2014's Annabelle would be an understatement and so I can't say I went to see this sequel; Annabelle: Creation with any degree of enthusiasm despite hearing it was a lot better. The best part of The Conjuring (of which these films are a spin-off) was hearing the tale about the supremely creepy doll and so I expected great things for a film based solely on the doll. Instead what we got was a by the numbers demonic haunting movie that not only wasted huge potential but did nothing new or interesting at all. For the prequel I expected more of a haunting than a Chucky style animated doll and so I think it was that knowledge, as well as a genuinely more entertaining film that I found some peace with this one.

The film starts in the 1940's and a doll maker (Anthony LaPaglia) has just finished work on a new doll, obviously the titular one. Not long after his young daughter dies in a tragic car accident. Fast forward twelve years to the 1950's and the doll makers house has recently become an orphanage. Six girls that include best friends Linda (Lulu Wilson) and polio afflicted Janice (Talitha Bateman) move in, along with Sister Charlotte. Samuel (the doll maker) still lives on the property, along with his bedridden wife, and he informs the girl that a certain bedroom upstairs in the orphanage is to be out of bounds. One night Janice hearing strange noises is drawn to this room and discovers in a secret cupboard Annabelle. This discovery leads to an escalation in bizarre events and soon it appears that some sort of evil has it's sights set on Janice...

Annabelle: Creation succeeds because it doesn't totally rely on the malice filled doll, instead this became much more of a haunted house film that at times reminded me quite a bit of Poltergeist, especially the dramatic finale to the main story (followed by a cool and clever epilogue set twelve years later ties that neatly into the first film in Star Wars: Rogue One fashion). Even before the doll is discovered objects in the remote house are moving of their own accord, strange voices and footsteps are heard and there is a general sense of unease. The reveal of the doll itself was a highlight of the film. While once again we never actually get to see it do anything it appears throughout, though becomes pretty predictable as it seems to show up as the zinger to any little moment of horror (girl goes under the stairs... discovers Annabelle waiting, girl throws the doll down a well then returns home... discovers Annabelle waiting, girl hears a noise on the empty bunk bed below in the dead of night...discovers Annabelle waiting). It actually became pretty predictable and a tad over used but I can't deny the pure love that doll has on it in terms of lighting. No matter the scene, whether set day or night that doll is lit in the most unsettling way possible, special award goes to whoever was responsible for that as it added a lot.

The doll though is just one aspect of this movie, elsewhere we get a killer demon prowling around, a sentient scarecrow, a ghost child and all sorts of flickering lights. It was a good enough idea that it isn't long before everyone living in the house is aware something evil is occurring, I hate it when the paranormal stuff only happens to one person with everyone else scoffing at their tales. I guess the horror aspect is where things fall down slightly coherence wise as it sometimes felt like the whole film was nothing more than a series of horror scenes set to play out. I felt these scenes were interchangeable and sometimes actually got in the way of plot moving on. There was a later scene set in a dumbwaiter shaft with Linda that only happens due to everyone fleeing the house except her, it had some cool bits (such as a zombie like monster thing) but added nothing except additional time onto the film. Again this happens again with another fun enough but ultimately pointless scene set in a barn with a different character.

The cast are fine enough, I did like Linda and Janice's actors, especially Bateman with her leg braces added something different to the traditional main lead. I felt some of the other girls were not as great, some of the older ones seemed to slightly over act at times. Elsewhere there are only a few adult characters, a highlight being Father Massey (Mark Bramhall) who only has a few scenes but was pretty funny. The music is effective enough but it does sometimes get repetitive in the way it builds up the tension for a reveal (usually of Annabelle once again). Elsewhere the special effects are sometimes great, I loved a flashback that showed a really messed up looking stop motion type effect for someone, the demon effects were not as interesting, standard Insidious type things going on in that department. The plot was fine enough, but it is a bit of a misnomer being called 'Creation' as technically yes it does show the physical doll being created, but the actually birth of the evil force is only shown via flashback rather than getting experienced first hand. I also felt some of the characters logic was a bit woolly, I blame all the horror of this story down to two kind of stupid characters in particular.

I am glad I enjoyed this more than Annabelle even if it is a mostly traditional haunted house film, one that comfortably fits into the genre of these modern types of films. Still it had it's moment and that doll is still as wrong looking as ever. Also watch out for the two not very subtle references to the other spin off film from The Conjuring (this time about the evil nun that featured a lot in The Conjuring 2). At least one is after the credits, but the other reference was clumsily slotted in. Not the worst horror out there, and indeed a step up for the spin offs but if you don't think this will be for you then I wont hold it against you.


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