Annabelle: Creation Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Warner Bros. UK
Directed by David F. Sandberg
Written by Gary Dauberman
2017, 109 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
UK theatrical release 11th August 2017
Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte
Miranda Otto as Esther Mullins
Anthony LaPaglia as Samuel Mullins
Talitha Bateman as Janice
Lulu Wilson as Linda
When Annabelle first appeared on our screens in James Wan’s incredibly satisfying The Conjuring back in 2013 she scared us, intrigued us and left us wanting more, so when the titular doll got its own film a year later anticipation was huge. Sadly the film missed the mark with critics and fans alike and, although not a disaster by any means, it simply couldn’t live up to the expectation built by that unforgettable intro, but if at first you don’t succeed...
Three years on, David F. Sandberg, fresh off the much-deserved success of last year’s surprise horror-hit Lights Out, is ready to take on the seemingly impossible, take the doll and fix it... or at least improve it.
So has he proved that Lights Out was no fluke? Well, yes, but is Annabelle: Creation a good film? Yes and no, it’s got all the ingredients for a solid horror and when it's scary, it is really scary, but it's sometimes as frustrating as hell - pun intended.
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, grieving parents, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) a doll maker, (uh-oh) and his wife (Miranda Otto) welcome a nun (eek!) and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home. They soon become the target of the doll maker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.
When Sister Charlotte arrives with the girls at their new home it’s safe to say that they are not given a warm welcome as such, more one of moody indifference. Mr. Mullins shows the girls around but of course there is a room they should never go in. Mrs Mullins is bed-ridden so this adds to the spookiness of the house but also begs the question of why they have decided now is the best time to invite them here? Oh well, what could go wrong eh?
Our main protagonists are Janice, played by the quite exceptional Talitha Bateman and Linda played by Lulu Wilson who was very recently seen playing a similar role in Ouija: Origin of Evil. They have forged a strong friendship and promise to never leave each other’s sides and if any family wants to adopt them, they come as a package deal. This bond is further strengthened by the fact that the older girls treat Janice as something of an outcast.
Janice has Polio so is hindered by a leg brace for much of the film but luckily the Mullins’s have a stair-lift already installed, a device not put to such tense usage since Mrs. Deagle’s demise in 80’s classic Gremlins.
Sister Charlotte is the calming centre of the film, brought to life by the very charming Stephanie Sigman who tries to help and advise the girls with the words of God as their fears escalate.
One night, Janice comes across a note scrawled in crayon and is invited to play a game, and as the poor girl enters the room that shall not be entered and comes across Annabelle the scene is then set and as the girls’ fears grow so does Annabelle’s strength as we are now treated to a series of eerie set pieces that become increasingly shocking and scary as the film goes on.
This is good and all, but as the pace quickens and the thrills become closer together the film starts to become a little unhinged. There is a particularly horrible scene involving a scarecrow, which works in isolation but actually doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of the plot and the rules that the film(s) have created. This is really the crux of the film’s problem; it tries so hard to be better, bigger and scarier than the first film that it asks a bit too much, as it requires you to forget the plot so well-crafted in the first act, and instead go on a roller-coaster ride of scares. This can be enough for a lot of modern horror but here was an opportunity to give us something more.
The production design from Jennifer Spence, who also worked on Sandberg’s Lights Out as well as the upcoming The Nun, is gorgeous giving the director a playground, if you will, of riches to work with.
One travesty that must be mentioned however is casting the excellent Miranda Otto and hardly using her. When we do see her it’s one of the highlights of the film as she explains why her and her husband’s pain led them to make the decisions they made. This is the beating heart of the film, as it shows the levels of grief that would lead parents, so desperate to see their little girl again, to go to extraordinary lengths and later try to gain penance by doing something good.
For all their goodwill they instead unleash a Demon who is once again visualised here in terrifying form thanks to the great work by the visual effects team and the truly scene-stealing demonic performance from Joseph Bishara.
Annabelle: Creation, although fun, creepy and enjoyably jumpy in places, is not so much an improvement on the first movie as it is a slightly different approach. Sandberg does the best anyone could do with the material but it just slightly fails to completely satisfy. There is a subtle hint at things to come from the expanded universe of The Conjuring so keep an eye out for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from a certain nun.