Director – David F. Sandberg
Cast – Talitha Eliana Bateman, Stephanie Sigman, Samara Lee, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson, Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard, Tayler Buck, Brad Greenquist
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I know I am not alone in believing that 2015’s Annabelle was a big disappointment. After scaring the hell out of viewers with his use of Annabelle in The Conjuring‘s opening sequence, James Wan’s idea was brought to life as a full-length spinoff where Wan only served as a producer. Sure enough, the absence of Wan resulted in the absence of fear. When word came out that there would be a prequel to Annabelle I quickly shrugged it off. I had no reason to believe it would be any better than its predecessor, but the trailers and clips I viewed showed much potential. Light’s Out director Patrick Sandberg was tapped for this gig, and he excels in ways I did not expect. From the incredible atmosphere to the genuine spookiness that left me riddled in goosebumps on several occasions, I was impressed with what this filmmaker is delivering to genre fans. Those turned off by the garbage that was Annabelle can rest assured that this is a superior effort, and should suffice those in need of a good horror film on the big screen.
Set in the early 1940s, Annabelle: Creation is a tale of terror stemming the loss of a child and the deceit of a demon. When the Mullins lost their young daughter in a terrible accident, their only solace lied in the wooden doll her father hand-crafted for her. Believing their daughter’s spirit took a hold on the doll, it provided them comfort…until the demon grew in strength. 12 years later, the Mullins have been living in peace after locking the doll in a fortified, blessed room that keeps it at bay. When a group of orphaned schoolgirls and their nun are brought in to live with them, Annabelle sees her chance to escape her shackles and regain her powers in the polio-stricken Janice. Now freed from her prison, she wreaks havoc on those in the home, leaving the young girls in a fight for their lives against a now unstoppable force.
Annabelle writer Gary Dauberman returns to pen this piece and he improves this story 100 fold. He does this by delivering engaging tension alongside worthwhile scares that its predecessor lacked. I did find that the film contained a lot of the same cliches, but they were overwhelmed by significantly better horror.
The story kicks off with the tranquil life of the Mullins, living in harmony in their large countryside home. The Mullins live the idyllic, quiet country life where Samuel Mullins uses his wood crafting abilities to run a business as well as build dolls for his daughter, Anna. Tragedy strikes about 6 minutes in, and then the story fast-forwards 12 years up to present day. The story then focuses on Janice, the youngest and also weakest of the group thanks to Polio leaving her walking with a cane. She makes for the prime target of the doll’s demonic entity, and sure enough she lures Janice to unleashing the spirit. From then on out, the spirit terrorizes her, the girls, and eventually the elders as well. Jolts will happen, terror will consume the home, and good people will die.
The direction from Sandberg is the film’s biggest selling point, as he employs fantastic sets, great atmosphere, and several genuine scares. While he did well with Lights Out, he shows his growth as a filmmaker here. His use of sound and atmosphere played a huge role in the scare sequences. The first half of the film relies mostly on scares that you don’t see, which is what gets me. Knowing something is approaching you from the darkness, hearing its footsteps echoing closer, is the type of horror the film begins with. On top of this, there are some scares that would normally be cliche, but at expanded upon to make them a bit more original. I enjoyed this and applaud both the writer and director for these tactics. I was also impressed with the acting performances from the young cast members. While their fear naturally felt real due to their age, I was astonished at the character play between them. It really does feel like they have been living together, and forced to rely on one another, for quite some time. The horror does adapt as the film goes on as it evolves into tangible horror. As the demon’s powers grow so does the terror, and it results in some deaths that I did not expect to see. The severity of these deaths was also a surprise. I did not see such a gory aftermath coming.
Despite enjoying the experience overall, this is not a film I would watch again. It is a great flick on a technical level, but there are some grips I have that will steer me away from a second viewing. To start, the film did its job in scaring me. I really enjoyed the simple yet highly effective scare sequences. As the film went on the horror became tangible and that is when it stopped scaring me. Spoiler warning: I am not a fan of little kids getting possessed. This isn’t because I feel children should be safe from such things. Oh, hell no. I dislike this because they just aren’t scary to me. If you feel the same way then expect to feel the same slight disappointment when the film kicks off well and then loses its scare factor. If such things do scare you then you are in for a treat.
Be sure and stick around for two additional scenes once the credits start rolling. They are short, in a somewhat annoying fashion, but they allude to more things to come for the Conjuring universe.
Overall, Annabelle: Creation is a vast improvement over its predecessor and a solid horror film. It excels at every element, with only personal gripes leaving me from enjoying this more. Give this a watch if you need some big screen horror in your life.