October has begun. It’s finally the season for dark and horrific movies. David Fincher’s Gone Girl is a marriage horror story, while Annabelle tells the story of how a haunted doll came to be. Because, who didn’t want to see a demonic doll origin?
David Fincher has been making very moody movies lately. Starting with The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and now Gone Girl. These movies share similar themes ranging from socially-awkward sociopaths, muted colors and a score created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch. You could almost call this the nihilism trilogy.
His latest movie, Gone Girl, is adapted from the incredibly popular book of the same name by Gillian Flynn. It tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne. Very early into the movie, Nick comes home and finds signs of a struggle in his home and realizes that his wife has possibly been kidnapped. The police get involved while Nick cooperates completely with detectives to find out what may have happened to her.
Meanwhile, the story shifts to Amy’s journal and we see flashbacks of the past five years. She describes meeting Nick and starting their lives together. Though over the course of a few years, the struggles of marriage make them despise each other. This paints a picture for the audience of a Nick that can’t be trusted. At the same time, the evidence, along with Nick’s shady actions, make him seem like the likely suspect.
What seems like nothing more than a Lifetime Original Movie becomes an unexpected thrill ride. You may go into this movie with the plan to guess what twists are in store. My advice is to just let the movie happen. It doesn’t wait till the third act to explain itself. Halfway through, you will be clued in on what is really going on. And that is when it starts getting interesting.
I don’t want to say much more about the plot. Acting-wise, this has the most solid ensemble of the year. Ben Affleck is solid. He portrays a man that you never truly trust, but is always in over his head. The real star here is Rosamund Pike. This is her movie. In her early scenes, she seemed to be sleepwalking through the role, but there’s a definite transition and she becomes the dynamic character of the lot. She should be on the short list for Best Actress. Carrie Coon plays Nick’s supportive twin sister Margo. In a movie full of unlikable and unreliable characters, she is the one you get behind.
Also, call me crazy, but Tyler Perry steals every scene he’s in. He is Affleck’s slick attorney. I questioned the casting choice at first. Perry seemed nothing like the character in the book, but he’s actually quite decent.
This is a graphic movie. Based on the content and theme, I can’t imagine that anyone would be taking a date to Gone Girl. However, if you’re looking for a dark modernized Hitchcock mind trip, then you should see Gone Girl. It will mess you up, but you’ll almost certainly remember the experience.
When the Conjuring was released last year, it quickly entered the upper tier for modern horror films. It utilized slow burn pacing to be incredibly scary, but also smart. In the first few minutes of The Conjuring we met the Warrens as they are told the story of Annabelle, the haunted doll. These few minutes managed to pack in a story that was simple, yet terrifying.
Well, the Conjuring did great at the box office, so just one year later, we are getting an origin story about the doll, Annabelle. I’m not a fan of horror prequels. They take all the fun out of it. Mysteries and supernatural occurrences are better left unexplained for the most part. Let’s take Insidious 2, for example. It explained where ‘The Bride’ came from and removed any sort of terror from the original. Thankfully, Annabelle doesn’t take anything away from Conjuring. It just feels like a cash grab.
John (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis) are….. Wait a minute. I need to stop there. This is a movie about a killer doll named Annabelle, where there’s an actual girl named Annabelle in the movie and the mom being haunted is played by an actress named Annabelle? My brain hurts.
Anyways, John and his pregnant wife, Mia, are living in the suburbs in the ’60s. One night, while prepping the baby’s room, John gives Mia the gift of a doll that will complete her collection. Apparently Mia collects dolls that look like they were forged by Satan himself. Life is peaceful in this neighborhood, until their neighbors are brutally slain and they are next on Charles Manson-like killers’ list. Yada yada yada…the cops take out the hippies, but not before the hippie named Annabelle curses the house and bleeds into the demonic doll. Not long after the tragedy do things start going awry and Mia is sure that something is after her and the baby. Even when they move, she is being pursued by Annabelle and whatever is attached to her.
That’s kind of the problem with this movie. It’s built around the doll, but doesn’t make you feel like the doll is involved at all. At some points, the dead hippie chick is terrorizing Mia. At other times, the devil the is. The doll is hardly involved. This problem would all be solved if the movie has genuine scares. But beyond a few decent scenes, it doesn’t. It comes down to cheap parlor tricks like flashing lights or the jarring sounds of thunder. Any movie that focuses on jump scares has no replay value.
There was one scene that I appreciated. Mia is putting household items away in the storage room in the basement section of her apartment building. A stroller rolls by and Mia is stuck in a long hallway with a terrifying manifestation. That’s all I’m going to say about that, but it’s the lone memorable image in an entirely forgettable movie.
The real Annabelle doll is a giant Raggedy Ann doll. That doll, while appearing completely innocent, has a dark story around it. I don’t know why the filmmakers didn’t go with Raggedy Ann. It could’ve made a regular household item into a terrifying creature. At one point in the movie, Annabelle starts levitating and is lifted up. You see her face and the devil’s face right behind it (Exactly like a scene from Insidious). The problem here is that the doll is grotesque enough. There’s really no difference in evil between she and the devil. Had they used an innocent looking Raggedy Ann doll and had the devil appear from behind it, it would have made for a memorable scene.
I can’t hate Annabelle because it didn’t go below my expectations, but it’s incredibly average. If you have the patience for mediocre horror sequels, or prequels in this case, then this might be a good way to start the Halloween season. However, this cross between The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Insidious, Paranormal Activity and The Dolls is standard and not worth your money. Wait for it on Netflix, where the viewing experience will be worth every penny.