Annabelle tells the origin story of a demonically possessed doll that first freaked audiences out in last year’s smash-hit horror flick The Conjuring. While it serves as a prequel to Conjuring, Annabelle doesn’t quite hold up to it’s predecessor’s legacy. To be honest, when I first heard that there was a film about the doll in particular, it didn’t really entice me. The idea just feels easy to the point of laziness. I mean, come on…there are so many ways the Conjuring could expand as a franchise, rather than limiting itself to a less original and less entertaining iteration of Chuckie.
What made The Conjuring special was that it told a story that was inherently scary rather than writing plot around scary scenes, the latter of which is the status quo for the modern studio horror movie. Though it was somewhat overridden with clichés, the craft in the filmmaking made up for it. Somewhat The cinematography in Conjuring was beautiful, from lighting to framing, and, in tandem with the incredible restraint from James Wan, helped make this movie feel like it had purpose beyond scaring cheap frights.
One thing I will say carried over was the brilliant cinematography. If the producers realized anything from the previous year’s success it was that the serious approach to the craft of the film was a huge asset. Annabelle’s other strengths include strong casting and for the most part decent scares. There were quite a few safe choices made (it’s worth noting that Conjuring director James Wan produced but did not direct Annabelle), for instance, the actors portraying the two main characters, while cast well, look remarkably similar to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga from the previous film. It was a bit disappointing to see them play it so safe, but it’s not a huge issue considering their performances were solid.
What is a huge issue is the writing. The story itself is plain and formulaic; a doll gets possessed by a demon and haunts a woman in her apartment. There is no originality in the premise at all, something that it doesn’t share with Conjuring. In addition, there are times when the dialogue is just plain bad. The one line that had me roll my eyes went something like, “crazy people do crazy things.” You don’t say? I could list more but it would only be trite. The fact is Annabelle tries it’s best to lean on the success of the film that preceded it, and ends up feeling rather empty. The directing overall was well executed and did actually scare me at times; the first kill of the movie was most likely my favorite part. That being said, the best directing in the world can’t save a bad script. The end result was a slow burn that fizzled out at it’s climax rather than flare up in a blaze of terror.
Annabelle is a slightly above average horror film that may stand out from others of the genre, though it doesn’t come anywhere close to The Conjuring. It may seem unfair to compare it to it’s predecessor, something that I’ve done consistently throughout this review, but everything about Annabelle is so rooted in it’s predecessor that it somewhat asks for the comparison. Fans of the original film and/or genre will most likely enjoy, but if you don’t like horror to begin with, this may not be the right showing for you.
New Line Cinema
Currently in theaters.
Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (must-see), 4 stars (exceptional), 3 stars (solid), 2 stars (average) and 1 star (unworthy).