(dir. John R. Leonetti)
*First time viewing
First things first, dolls are terrifying. There’s absolutely no way around this. Working from that concept alone, Annabelle already has a lot going for it. The doll simply radiates evil. It doesn’t even have to do anything to be frightening. So the film asks for a little (or perhaps a lot) of suspension of disbelief when John gives the doll as a gift to his pregnant wife, Mia. Instead of ditching the doll and maybe her husband like any sensible person, Mia exclaims “she fits right in,” because she collects dolls. Of course the doll does not “fit right in,” and instead becomes a vessel for a satanic cult looking to raise a demon and collect a soul.
While Annabelle is a main source of the evil that transpires, the film is not Child’s Play. Annabelle follows in the footsteps of The Conjuring and instead of offering up a Talking Tina scenario, it focuses on the idea of evil attaching itself to objects. The film also takes a few story cues and references from Rosemary’s Baby and the background references to the Manson murders add to this. Leonetti and screenwriter, Gary Dauberman have clearly pulled from a lot of sources and which makes the final product somewhat familiar (though they are aware enough to subvert expectations during key moments), but also mostly what audiences came to see anyway.
Annabelle doesn’t reach the same level of scares as the The Conjuring and Leonetti doesn’t have the same directorial scope or imagination as James Wan, but the film still offers plenty to enjoy. Leonetti’s frequent use of tight-shots creates some really effective tension when the camera pulls back. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton make for likeable leads, completely selling their characters even while they make the dumb kind of decisions horror characters are so often known for. The ending was somewhat unsatisfying and heavy-handed but the climatic scenes leading up to it provide some solid scares.
Scare Factor: 4/5 Annabelle offers up some satisfying scares and some familiar ones that still manage to be entertaining. But keep your expectations in check, this isn’t the The Conjuring 2, but a solid horror entry in its own right. While the film never strays too far from traditional supernatural horror conventions, it also proves there’s still fun to be had in the familiar… and always terror to be found in dolls.