Published on October 3rd, 2014 | by Matthew Leasor0
Review by Matthew Leasor
Annabelle is the newest demon-based spooky fright film produced by James Wan (producer Saw II-IV & director Insidious 1&2). The trailers would have you believe that it is a prequel to the Conjuring. Well I suppose it is, although a very loose prequel.
Annabelle, the possessed doll, is mentioned a few times in “The Conjuring,” but it doesn’t contain any of the cast from the original
The film takes place in the 1970s and focuses on a married couple who have just moved in to a new house and the wife, Mia (Annabelle Wallis) is pregnant. Her husband (played extremely woodenly by actor Ward Horton) buys her a long sought after custom doll named Annabelle. Shortly after, the couple is attacked by their neighbors who we find are satanic cult members. Mia is stabbed in her belly (threatening the life of her child); the female Satanist neighbor dies clutching the Annabelle doll, her blood dripping and seemingly sucked into the eye socket of the doll, ushering in the demonic reign of Annabelle.
You’d assume that this is a standard “killer doll” horror flick, you’d also be a bit misled, and that’s a good thing in my opinion. This isn’t Chucky. You won’t see Annabelle speaking or running around the house brandishing a knife. That isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t have its share of genre tropes, it has plenty of those.
As so many other possession/haunting movies involving a couple, for the most part the lonely wife is preyed upon while the husband is away at work. Throughout the film the writers find multiple ways of keeping Mia at home alone with the demon. John is called away on a business trip on one of the more traumatic encounters Mia has with Annabelle, resulting in Mia being placed on bed rest, giving her a reason to stay at home in the demons clutches. Later John is placed on the night shift, once again placing him out of the way so the demon can terrorize Mia at night where things are scary. It is inevitable that a scene takes place where her husband doesn’t believe her and thinks she’s going crazy. I can think of so many films that go this same route. The prerequisite priest comes along to help the family figure out their demonic happenings and oh yes, let’s not forget the sagely African American that needs to help Mia find her way and lead her both in knowledge of the demon and its demise. The story manages to throw in some mysterious children to once scene just to make sure that the trope is checked off the list. The remainder of the movie after the introductory attack by the satanic neighbors has Mia and later her child being threatened by the demon possessing Annabelle, the search for what it is, and what it wants and then its climax and disposal. Nothing new to this genre found here.
Annabelle does come with its share of scares (most of these can be seen in the previews), however the pacing is bad. I found myself bored out of my mind by the plot between the scares. So bored and disinterested that once the scary scenes occurred which seemed to be paced almost on a timer there wasn’t enough scare to raise the adrenaline needed to make it to the next fright. I will say that having a child endangered and threatened by the demonic spirit does bump up the tension and nerves and was a necessary inclusion to raise the stakes and pull out some reason to care about the victims by the audience.
Mia and John are so one-imensional that one would be hard-pressed to care about what happens to either of them. The demon effects are about as scary as a guy in a rubber suit lurking around a two-bit horror house, I mean pretty bad. I’ve seen a scarier demon on a TV episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” from 1988. Annabelle is good for a fright or two, and a reason to grab some popcorn and pig-out, but just be prepared to take a siesta three or four times in-between bouts of popcorn binge.
2 stars our of 5 for unoriginality, dull plot, wooden acting and no character development