Review: Annabelle: Creation

August 11, 2017
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I’ve said this many, many times on this blog but horror is the second most subjective genre in film (the first being comedy).  What’s scary to me, may not be scary to you.  Perfect example is The Conjuring franchise, which started only four years ago and is LOOSELY based on the real case studies of mediums Ed and Lorraine Warren.  The first Conjuring film was one of the scariest films in the last decade and it spun off four other projects.  The latest is Annabelle: Creation which is a prequel to a spinoff of The Conjuring…phew, that’s a mouthful.  Normally, this is a recipe for disaster and it’s how every successful horror franchise from the ‘80s sunk itself; however, this is an impressive fright flick and I think it’s because of one main reason.

The Annabelle doll has a super small part in the original Conjuring film and that was probably because director James Wan didn’t think it was scary enough to earn an entire film.  I totally agree and was pretty shocked when the studio rushed an Annabelle film out that was absolutely awful.  Of course, that’s what happens when you hire the same director that made Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Butterfly Effect 2.  What’s even more shocking than making that film was then doubling down with a prequel to it.  When I heard about that, I was prepared to write the whole damn thing off as the anchor that drowns all the good The Conjuring franchise had.  But when I saw director David Sandberg was helming it, I became really intrigued.

Sandberg is a rising star in Hollywood and I couldn’t be happier about it.  His only other feature film was Lights Out, which was very effective, but it’s his work on short horror films that made me a fan of his.  The original short film Lights Out was the scariest horror shorts I’ve ever seen and amazing how he did so much in 2:00 minutes.  I think someone as talented as him saw Annabelle: Creation as a challenge; “how can I take a dumpy idea based on a soggy horror concept and make it terrifying” he probably thought.  He totally succeeded because Annabelle: Creation was scary as hell.

The cast, which is unknown performers except for Anthony LaPaglia (Empire Records, The Client) and Miranda Otto (the Lord of the Rings films, War of the Worlds), are all great.  The group of young girls do a convincing job making us believe they’re actually young and interacting organically.  However, the real star of the film is Sandberg.  With the exception of having several scenes play out by the horror paint-by-number rule book, this film fires on all cylinders.  The time period of late ‘50s in an isolated California farmhouse that looks like it was plucked from an NC Wyeth painting is already creepy.  The set of the interior house is vast (maybe unrealistically vast) and littered with creepy production symbolism.  But what stands out the best is the imaginative use of so many different points of fear in the film which makes the Annabelle doll one of the least frightening things in it.

Again, I emphasize that many people will see this and think it’s not scary, especially those of you that wait to see it at home, which is the worst way to watch a horror film.  That’s fine and maybe you spook less than I do.  But for those of you that can, not only appreciate a great ghost story, but can appreciate well-made genre films; you will enjoy this.  I can’t say that I’m looking forward to any other Annabelle films and, actually, hope they don’t make more, but for this one being what it is, I’m thrilled it was made and can’t wait to see it again.