Director: John R. Leonetti
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, and Tony Amendola
by Monte Yazzie - TheCodaFilms.com
The mischievous smile that adorns the Annabelle doll supports what horror films have exploited for years…dolls are creepy. The doll from “Magic”, “Dead of Night”, The Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll”, and “Poltergeist” are just a few of the figures that have spooked audiences. “Annabelle” finds it’s influence from James Wan’s “The Conjuring”, where the doll first made it’s appearance, however the compliments are few for this uninspired and holiday exploited horror film.
Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) live an idyllic life in the suburbs of Santa Monica. They go to church, have great neighbors, and are expecting their first child. John is busy at medical school while Mia prepares for their child at home. The couple gets in an argument one night and John offers an early present to apologize, it’s a doll that completes Mia’s extensive collection. The neighbor’s estranged daughter, who is a runaway, returns violently home one night. Mia and John are attacked but saved by authorities but not before the Annabelle doll becomes a conduit for a malevolent force.
From the beginning moments of “Annabelle” the distinct scare design seen in films like “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” are present. Tension is a crucial element in these films. Whether it’s the score that rises and falls in volume coercing anxiety or the sustainment of a scene at the peak of fear, everything is purposely coordinated to make the audience uneasy. Even moments of relief become opportunities to blindside the viewer. It’s all effective when done properly. “Annabelle” has a few great setups, like a storage room scene that composes a great shock and an extended elevator gag that is surprisingly effective; the remainder of the film is a composition of reused frights from scarier movies and one-dimensional characters that aren’t given any opportunity to develop. It’s unfortunate because the writers hint at some really interesting outlooks, like an early scene of a news report that discusses the prominence of cults in California or the incorporation of a demon figure that steals every fearsome scene. While the first twenty minutes of the film establishes a nice origin the remainder is problematic in numerous ways, making the film ultimately feel like it was rushed for a Halloween deadline.
Once the family moves from the suburbs to a big city apartment, things get interesting again. Allowing Mia the opportunity to display motherly characteristics and adding the presence of a defenseless infant rejuvenates the stumbling film for a moment. Annabelle Wallis does a good job here; the protective qualities motherhood offers her character makes depicts her character as resilient when it would be easy to consider her decisions foolish.
“Annabelle” is not terrible but it is not particularly good either, however it does offer enough forceful frights and recognizable setups to remind horror fans that they should take one of the 31 nights of October to revisit “The Conjuring”.
Monte’s Rating / 2.00 out of 5.00