Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Premise: A spinoff of The Conjuring and a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle. Set in the 1950s, a group of orphans are sent to live in the isolated home of a couple who lost their own child years earlier. After discovering a doll, supernatural phenomena start happening around the house.
What Works: With two Conjuring movies, Annabelle and its prequel, and the forthcoming spinoff The Nun, this series has become a full-fledged franchise and a cinematic universe that is competitive with those run by major Hollywood studios. Rather than replicating the style of Marvel’s Avengers pictures, the filmmakers of The Conjuring series have taken a different approach to their material and created a new model for a cinematic universe that’s suited to the horror genre. Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its imitators are mostly linear and build one film upon the other with interconnected storylines, the Conjuring series consists of installments that can be watched on their own or as a part of a larger whole. The Annabelle films work their way backwards in time, introducing the doll in the first Conjuring picture and then progressively revealing the origins of its supernatural power. Annabelle: Creation is a somewhat better movie than its immediate predecessor. The story is more coherent and there is a little more going on among the characters; the film is led by young actors Lulu Wilson and Talitha Eliana Bateman and they share some effective moments. The orphans are overseen by a nun played by Stephanie Sigman and the actress sidesteps the clichés of clergical figures to be a compassionate and authentic character. Creation is also a bit scarier than the 2014 picture and it is better made. The filmmakers use darkness and silence pretty well and stage the scares in ways that are usually effective.
What Doesn’t: Haunting stories are in vogue at the moment and Annabelle: Creation offers the same old thing we’ve seen in the other Conjuring pictures and as well as other horror pictures like the Insidious series and Lights Out. Creation is one of the clearest examples of the lack of moral and fantastical imagination by today’s horror filmmakers. Everything about the movie is simplistic. The demon wants to possess or consume the souls of these young women for no other reason than its own destructive appetite and the film relies upon the traditional symbols of religion and the occult, namely the crucifix, but with very little regard for what those symbols mean. The conflict of Annabelle: Creation, like a lot of today’s horror stories, is not at all complicated and everything about it is taken at face value. That makes the film rather obvious and therefore boring and Creation glosses over the most interesting parts of its story. The prologue sequence reveals how a married couple lost their daughter in an accident and it is later explained that in their grief the couple resorted to alternate spiritual paths to contact their daughter beyond the grave and thereby opened a pathway for the demon that is presently terrorizing the orphans. The backstory of the parents is much more interesting than the haunting and it possesses all sorts of possibilities that aren’t explored. The film also underwhelms as a prequel. The duty of a prequel is to fill in the backstory and enhance the viewer’s understanding of the other films. Annabelle: Creation adds very little to the existing mythos. It’s also not especially scary. It is better than its predecessor and there are some tense sequences but it’s not consistently frightening throughout. The filmmakers are unable to sustain an atmosphere of terror and that’s partly because the movie is too long. Annabelle: Creation runs nearly two hours but very little actually happens in the first half.
Bottom Line: Annabelle: Creation will probably play for the PG-13 audience that consistently turns out for these films. But for more seasoned horror fans this doesn’t cut it and the film squanders a good idea in favor of more of the same from the Conjuring series.
Episode: #662 (August 27, 2017)