The terrifying doll that many will recognize from her brief appearance in The Conjuring has made a comeback in her very own movie, Annabelle. Unfortunately, despite director John Leonetti (who worked as the cinematographer in The Conjuring) showing his talent at creating suspense, there is nothing new or original about this horror, which unashamedly lifts many of its best parts from superior films.
As a backstory to how the doll became possessed it also makes absolutely no sense and is riddled with plot holes. It follows the story of John and Mia Gordon who are attacked by cult members in their home. Horton and Wallis play the roles adequately throughout most of the film but are let down by the below average writing. Somehow (and with obvious similarities to Holland’s Child’s Play) during this incident, Mia’s new doll becomes demonized and goes on to wreak havoc on the couple and their new baby for reasons never fully explained. The doll is truly a disturbing protagonist, even if she doesn’t move until half way into the film, and if the entire picture had matched Annabelle’s natural horror then it would have been an unquestionable success.
To his credit, Leonetti creates a believable setting and skillfully draws on the satanic cult fears that were prominent during the early 70s. He makes subtle references to the Charles Manson cult and Rosemary’s Baby and through this, creates real fear in the beginning of the film. After the initial terror, however, the plot gets twisted, confusing and at times faintly ridiculous, leaving the only explanation for all the evil happenings to be ‘because the doll is evil’.
If you go in expecting the striking horror of The Conjuring then you’ll be severely disappointed in this prequel. It creates none of the genuine fear that James Wan manipulated and will not go down as a classic. Yet that’s not to say Annabelle doesn’t have its share of thrills, even if the best ones are already given away in the trailer. It is also a relief to see a modern horror that can create tension and fear without resorting to an over-dependence on blood and gore.
Overall, if you are able to look past the plot flaws and the mediocre acting then you will suddenly find yourself loving all Annabelle’s cheap kicks and horror clichés.