Annabelle Movie Review
Written by Kevin Kangas
Directed by John R. Leonetti
Written by Gary Dauberman
2014, 98 minutes, Rated R
Theatrical release on October 3rd, 2014
Annabelle Wallis as Mia
Ward Horton as John
Alfre Woodard as Evelyn
Kerry O'Malley as Sharon Higgins
Brian Howe as Pete Higgins
Tony Amendola as Father Perez
Eric Ladin as Detective Clarkin
Let's get this out of the way first: You will never see the creepy titular doll of Annabelle move of its own volition; This is not Child's Play.
Annabelle is brought to you from the same team behind Insidious I, II, and The Conjuring, and it's easy to tell. These guys have it down to a formula, but when the formula works why change it? And clearly the formula works – to the tune of $54 million, $84 million and $157 million respectively.
There's really no need to sum up the plot for you because I think you know it. Happy couple gets haunted by something paranormal. Bad things happen.
You may be wondering if it's scary. Judging from the audience reaction in my screening would lead you to believe yes, yes it is. I'll admit to falling for a couple of the jump scares myself.
John R. Leonetti takes over the reins from director James Wan (who helmed The Conjuring and both Insidious films), but most people probably won't even notice. Leonetti was the Director of Photography on all three of the other films, and he even "borrows" a few shots directly from Wan. Going into a film where a D.P. becomes director is always a dicey proposition. I'm reminded directly of when Spielberg's D.P., Janusz Kaminski, moved off on his own and delivered the terrible Lost Souls film. But sometimes D.P.'s can turn out serviceable if not decent films, too. Jan De Bont, for instance, moved from shooting Paul Verhoeven's movies (as well as Die Hard) to directing Speed, Twister and the remake of The Haunting.
And while Leonetti plays it pretty safe, he clearly has an eye for detail. The movie, set in the 1970s, really evokes the era with an outstanding production design. You could almost forget that he previously directed Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. (But he also directed The Butterfly Effect 2, which I have a vague memory of being pleasantly surprised by.)
My one quibble with Annabelle is that after the first ten minutes, the film seems to build up slowly. It's a minor quibble though, as there's enough tension in the shots that you know things are going to go very bad very soon, and the best scene in the film is what happens in the apartment's basement when the lead goes down to put something into storage. I believe the woman behind me put it best when she said, over and over again, "Oh, HELL no!"
A decent start to the Halloween movie season, and sure to be better than the bland-looking Ouija coming out in a few weeks, Annabelle is worth checking out if you're a fan of the other James Wan films.