Director: David F. Sandberg
Screenwriter: Gary Dauberman
Cast: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Samara Lee
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rated R | 109 Minutes
Release Date: August 11, 2017
All the possessed portraits, toys, and haunted spirits we’ve seen in James Wan‘s Conjuring films leaves plenty of room for world building. As such spinoffs are released to expand upon that world, though it has been met with mixed results. For one thing, Annabelle: while a commercial success, the spinoff was a critical disappointment. But studios are more concerned with the former, so of course, we’re going to get a continuation of that poorly received spinoff.
But here is the surprising thing about Annabelle: Creation, it’s actually pretty good. Lights Out director David F. Sandberg‘s latest effort uses all the traditional horror tropes that deliver plenty of chills and thrills. But because it uses all those familiar elements, it all suffers from the same pitfalls. Still, it is a prequel spinoff that gets the job done, and really, that’s all you could ask for. Check out my full review below.
Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther (Miranda Otto) Mullins are a seemingly happy family. Together with their daughter, Bee (Samara Lee), they attend church and have a unique way of playing hide-and-seek that involves using slips of paper. But their happiness is ripped away when their daughter dies in a freak accident. 12 years later, they open their home to a nun Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a group of orphan girls. Janice (Talitha Bateman), one of the orphans who suffers from polio, begins to hear and see the spirit that lurks within the shadows of the house.
In typical horror movie fashion, Samuel explains the house rules and tells which rooms the girls can and cannot enter. And of course, these rules are broken. Because it wouldn’t be much of a horror film if anyone followed the rules. But Janice has a very good reason to break the rules because the spirit is slipping pieces of paper through the door and is leading her to Bee’s room, which is one of the rooms that Samuel prohibited anyone from entering. And of course, because the spirit cannot break free on its own, it gets the curious young girl to help break the chains. From there, Annabelle: Creation follows the horror playbook using all the typical tropes we are accustomed to seeing in any horror film.
But that really isn’t so bad. Here all the delightful frights are set up long in advance. Sandberg lays out the pieces early on knowing that they will serve a greater purpose in the end. There’s the dumbwaiter that “mysteriously” opens on its own, there’s the stairlift that only works when a person is buckled in, and the record player that cannot play. But Sandberg intertwines all of that with the horror favorites like creaky floors, the staring into the complete darkness, the soulless Annabelle doll with the dead eyes, and the long silent pauses. So when we see that dumbwaiter or that chairlift again, we would have probably have forgotten about it because we were so busy being scared earlier on in the film.
It’s not as though we haven’t seen all of these before. Clearly, Sandberg knows what works and how to get someone to jump out of their seat. But by the time we are getting to the end of Annabelle: Creation, it all becomes a practice in stupidity. Characters are making remarkably bad decisions. Again, it’s just another common trope in these horror films. No one believes in the young girl, they don’t escape from their living nightmare when they have a chance, the religious family reaches out to a great evil rather than God. Again, it’s a been there done that scenario.
Still, even though Annabelle: Creation doesn’t offer anything fresh or new, it can still scare the hell out of you with patience and panache. That lurking darkness you can’t just help but peer into. You look into it, knowing that something will pop out, but the evil presence just waits until you drop your guard, and with the help of creepy sounds and frightfully swelling music, it scares the bejesus out of you. Then there’s the look of the soulless dolls with the dead eyes, and a scarecrow that you know will come back and haunt you.
So while it may be a bit predictable at times, Annabelle: Creation is very much a frightfully fun movie. But don’t expect it to be one that effectively traumatizes you.