Annabelle: Creation (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
People have grown to love The Conjuring and Annabelle and fans of the franchise are beyond excited to see where this story goes.
Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson are almost worth the price of admission alone. Great performances from two terrific young actors.
For those who love jump scares, no joke - this movie has countless of them. For some, that's enough, and they can overlook everything else.
Barely a movie. Annabelle: Creation tells a rudimentary story with no original thoughts or content, and just hits the jump scare button over and over again.
Demand more from your horror films people. We do have innovative movies in this genre being made each year. Jump scares inherently are not a bad thing, except when they become the tool you pull out of the cinematic toolbox to single-handedly move your story along.
I think we are good with this whole Annabelle origin story now, right?
If Marvel and DC Comics can have a Cinematic Universe, and Universal can deploy its movie monster-laden Dark Universe, I suppose we all have enough bandwidth for The Conjuring Universe. With two Conjuring movies and now two Annabelle movies, and a story of the demonic Nun, who has made appearances along the way, as well as a third Conjuring tale being discussed, this is a Universe still being built, with no end in sight.
With Annabelle: Creation we begin with a tragic death of a young girl, Annabelle (Samara Lee), in 1945. The only child of dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and wife Esther (Miranda Otto), the couple never truly recovers. In 1957, a shuttered orphanage receives news that the Mullins home has been offered as a temporary residence for Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and six girls, with Mr. Mullins overseeing their stay and assisting them with anything they need.
Arriving in a home that only exists in horror movies, the girls begin finding mysterious doors and well-kept but unattended rooms, full of a number of curiosities and mysteries. Our curiosities as viewers is shared by two girls, Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson). Though Janice is stricken with polio, she maneuvers through the house, ably, with the use of a brace on her leg and a crutch. A chairlift, carrying her from upstairs to downstairs and back again is also introduced to her. Linda finds her curiosities easily stifled when doors start creaking open and things do not seem quite right.
I mean, we all kind of know where this is headed, right? Things get weird, people start seeing or hearing all kinds of things, and the intensity amps up exponentially with each passing scene and discovery. Obviously, with neither girl named Annabelle, and supernatural forces at play in the home of a deceased young girl by the same name, something wicked this way comes regarding her presence still looming around the Mullins' compound. I will not spoil things, but putting together how Annabelle fits in with all of this, should not be hard.
Unfortunately, Annabelle: Creation has promise, but never delivers. After the huge success of movies like Paranormal Activity, and Insidious in 2011, increasingly, lazily, and in so many of these small budget horror flicks, these movies bank their money, literally, on jump scares to generate a cheap pop with an audience. Dozens of wannabe horror films and potential franchises use this as a means to an end now and Annabelle: Creation is little more than one jump scare after another.
Obviously we have something of a story to build around, but large amounts of this movie feel like one of those "internet screamer" videos we have all been subjected to. You know the ones: You watch a video of a car driving or something on a security camera, perhaps, you lean in and survey the screen with your eyes, until BAM!!! - Linda Blair's face from The Exorcist appears before you with a loud noise. Naturally, we jump back, laugh, punch the person next to us, utter a litany of profanities and then immediately think about who we can get to fall for this next.
Alright. There is a bit more to all of this than just a movie of cheap jump scares. The two main performances by Bateman and Wilson are extremely good and engaging, and they keep this thing infinitely watchable. Wilson, who stole the show in the surprisingly good prequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil, slides into the supportive friend role, while Bateman's Janice finds herself squarely in the cross-hairs of the chaos that begins engulfing the Mullins home and all of its inhabitants.
There is one fantastic scene, a truly pulse-pounding, intense, prolonged confrontation involving Janice and not only characters, both real and perhaps imagined, but incorporates a clever use of props and gadgetry. For five terrific minutes or so, director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (Annabelle, the forthcoming IT), set aside their happy buzzer of amusement park shocks, and create a truly unsettling sequence where we feel genuinely anxious and frightened for what may come.
Sadly, that moment exists in isolation. The rest of the time, we have stabs of loud noises and scares telegraphed either by Benjamin Wallfisch's on-the-nose music score or the same build-up and payoff in scene after scene. By the time we reach a barn, with a climactic scene involving a scarecrow, I didn't jump, I laughed. Like out loud. Because, by this point, everything felt so meaningless.
As the movie bores on, Annabelle: Creation becomes less a movie and more a loosely tied together series of moments that grow increasingly empty and shallow. With the terrific Lights Out in his past, Sandberg tries to find substance and depth with Creation, but after awhile, he just gives up, grabs that "easy" button for quick scares, and hopes we look past deficient writing and a tired premise that makes this whole exercise much ado about nothing.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Philippa Couthard, Grace Fulton, Lou Lou Safran, Samara Lee, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Kerry O'Malley, Joseph Bishara.
Director: David F. Sandberg
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Release Date: August 11, 2017