Annabelle Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: Annabelle

January 21, 2015Ben MK

Devil in a doll's dress...

If you've seen The Conjuring, you may have tried hard to forget the chilling details of its unnerving prologue, which gave audiences a small but terrifying taste of the tale of Annabelle, a demonically possessed doll responsible for tormenting a pair of nursing students in the 1970s. Like the plight of the Perron family, Annabelle's story finds its basis in the real-life case files of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. And now the makers of that film are back to frighten moviegoers with Annabelle, a prequel to The Conjuring devoted to telling the story of how that evil doll came to be.


The Film First and foremost, Annabelle isn't based on actual events, but is rather a whole new story that has been brought to the screen by producer James Wan, director John R. Leonetti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman.

Set in 1967, a year before the events depicted in the prologue of The Conjuring, the film centers on Mia and John Form (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton), a young couple expecting their first child. They're basically the quintessential 1960s Middle American family: he's a soon-to-be-doctor, she's a doting stay-at-home wife who collects dolls (uh-oh) and enjoys sewing, and they live in a modest bungalow in a quiet Santa Monica neighborhood (the kind where no one locks their doors at night).

That all changes when John brings Mia a gift one day — the titular doll. Although at this point, there's nothing sinister about the toy other than its subtly creepy appearance. However, one night Mia is awoken by a commotion next door, and when John ventures over to investigate, they find themselves under attack by two knife-wielding assailants, Annabelle Higgins (who also happens to be their neighbors' estranged daughter) and her boyfriend, both of whom are acting under the influence of a cult called The Disciples of the Ram.

John and Mia survive, and when the police arrive, they find Annabelle dead by her own hand in the Forms' nursery, clutching the blood-stained doll. Not long after, Mia gives birth to a daughter named Leah, and she and John try to put the terrifying events of that night behind them. However, someone — or something — has other plans for them. And they soon find themselves dealing with a supernatural presence that will not rest until it has what it wants — a human soul — even following them from Santa Monica to their new home in a Pasadena apartment building.

The movie's plot from this point onwards amounts to a series of increasingly violent encounters between Mia, who's left to fend for herself while her husband is away at work, and the entity controlling the doll. As the situation escalates, however, she's forced to consult a local bookstore owner with an interest in the occult (Alfre Woodard) and a priest (Tony Amendola) for help.

The main gripe most viewers will have about the film is its disappointing lack of originality. For whereas Wan's own Insidious films helped breathe new life into the genre, Annabelle is for the most part content with falling back on the same rote formula that horror filmmakers have relied upon for decades. And while the film is able to muster a few decent scares — such as in a tense sequence where Mia comes face to face with the demon in a darkened apartment basement — it will largely have viewers feeling the urge to revisit The Conjuring, or even the '80s classic Child's Play, which offers a much more satisfying take on the whole possessed, killer doll theme.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Its lack of genuine scares aside, Annabelle creeps its way onto Blu-ray with a solidly effective A/V presentation that at least ensures that the film looks and sounds as good in viewers' living rooms as it did in cinemas. Picture quality is crisp with a hint of film grain, colors are somewhat muted but nonetheless well-saturated, blacks are perfectly inky and contrast is punchy. Some of the film's darker scenes exhibit a variable deficiency in shadow detail, instead coming across as slightly murky; but otherwise there are no visible image defects present to speak of. Audio-wise, the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is equally impressive, bringing to disturbing life tried-and-true horror movie atmospherics such as a creaky rocking chair and the echoing screams of a child, not to mention the discordant string work of composer Joseph Bishara's eerie score.

Special Features Warner's Blu-ray package scares up a DVD copy of the film and an UltraViolet digital copy. There are also over 40 minutes of HD special features, comprised of four brief featurettes and 21 minutes of Deleted Scenes (8 in total). The Curse of Annabelle is a 6-minute piece touching on the film's story and the creepy goings-on that happened during filming. It's followed by the 6-minute Bloody Tears of Possession, which takes a look at the movie's home invasion sequence, including the all-in-one-shot cinematography and the camera technologies involved. Next is the 4-minute Dolls of the Demon, which focuses on the movie's depiction of the Annabelle doll. Lastly, A Demonic Process is a 5-minute peek at the prosthetic work done by visual effects house KNB EFX Group to turn composer Joseph Bishara into the film's gargoyle-like, demonic antagonist.

The Bottom Line Although Annabelle offers glimpses of the unique vision that made producer James Wan's previous films so terrifying, it generally falls short when it comes to delivering on the thrills and chills. Still, those hardcore fans of The Conjuring who insist on checking out the film may be pleasantly surprised by Warner's Blu-ray release, which offers solid audio and video, topped off with a handful of lightweight bonus features. Ultimately, the disc's technical merits are its saving grace, but if a good scare is what you're after, better read up on the real-life story instead.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

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