Annabelle has traveled a strange cinematic road. Originally, this scary story, and titular doll, was used as the introduction to 2013’s modern horror classic – The Conjuring. The movie was such a success, that sequels were greenlighted quickly, along with a stand-alone Annabelle prequel, which came out in 2014 and was really below average. Somehow, someone decided to finance another prequel to the mediocre Annabelle prequel and this leads us to Annabelle: Creation.
In Creation we go all the way back to a desolate farm house in, what seems to be, Dust Bowl-era America. Doll maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto), whose daughter died 12 years earlier, open their home to a nun and several girls to serve as a makeshift orphanage. However, a possessed doll turns this new girls’ home into a haunted house of unspeakable horrors.
I didn’t ask for this movie. You didn’t ask for this movie. Yet, somehow Annabelle Creation was… created. Here’s the thing – It’s actually surprisingly good. The horrific sight gags even border on great.
There’s so much working against this movie to begin with. The setup and slow build to the inevitable terror are formulaic because we’ve seen it all before. Also, the doll that is clearly created to terrify children everywhere based on looks alone, isn’t all that scary. Had they just gone with the real Annabelle look (Raggedy Ann) it would have made an every day item, that we may find in our storage rooms, terrifying.
Horror flicks tend to rely on the formula of a killer/ghost picking annoying people off one by one. Yet, in Creation, the victims are young orphan girls that have already suffered through a hard life already. It almost feels like too much when a young, polio-stricken girl is Annabelle’s focus of fear. Successful tension is built when you actually feel bad for whoever is being attacked and Annabelle definitely picks on the ones you pity most.
Director David F. Sanberg (Lights Out) definitely fits well in the school of James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious). Both directors manage to keep the budget low and focus on as many practical effects as possible. In fact, the few times in Annabelle where the scares feel contrived are when you know you’re seeing a digital demon face.
The reason Annabelle Creation stands out among most ghost stories is that it doesn’t jump out and scare you quickly then move you to safety. Once the terrible events begin, they don’t let up. There’s a real sense of powerlessness that these characters go through.
Annabelle Creation made a pretty fatal flaw by keeping its R rating. Having children in peril will almost always guarantee it, but it also doesn’t shy away from a few buckets of blood near the end. The annoying part is that it easily could have been PG-13. This could have been the new slumber party horror flick to keep kids entertained and a bit terrified. Instead, the rating will keep it limited to an older audience.
It’s already been a better than average year in horror and I’m hoping that “It” can continue the trend next month. For now, I’m happy to have another solid entry in my October movie playlist. B+