Annabelle: Creation featured

'Annabelle: Creation' Film Review: Second 'Conjuring' spinoff succeeds where the first one didn't

August 10, 2017Ben Mk



   
For anyone with a fear of clowns, the upcoming remake of Stephen King's It certainly looks to be the stuff nightmares are made of. But what if it's dolls — not face paint, red noses and colored wigs — that strike a sharp pang of terror in your heart?

Luckily, there's Annabelle: Creation, the latest installment in the Conjuring universe. Founded on the casework of husband-and-wife paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the horror franchise initially prided itself on the "based on true events" moniker, but has since grown to embrace more fictionalized frights. Still, that doesn't make Annabelle: Creation — the 1950s-set origin story for the demonic doll that first appeared in the prologue to 2013's The Conjuring, before being given its very own starring vehicle one year later — any less creepy.

A prequel to Annabelle, the story revolves around dollmaker Sam Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), once the parents of a 7-year-old daughter whom they lost tragically 12 years earlier. Now the Mullins have transformed their home into an orphanage, welcoming a young nun (Stephanie Sigman) and six girls under their roof. However, when one of the girls (Talitha Bateman) unwittingly stirs something supernatural, the situation turns from hospitable to horrific, as the houseguests find themselves facing an unspeakable evil.

Working from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, what director David F. Sandberg has achieved here is truly worth lauding. By all accounts, Annabelle: Creation shouldn't be as terrifying as it is; its premise is rote, and its setting even more so. Yet, as with his previous film, the ingeniously effective Lights Out, Sandberg doesn't rely solely on jump scares or clich├ęd horror movie tropes to induce shrieking among his audience, appealing instead to our primal fears, and connecting with moviegoers at a level that demonstrates a genuine reverence for the genre.

The cast is also fantastic, especially Bateman and her fellow young co-star, Lulu Wilson. The two of them play best friends, and while the movie uses the Mullins' tragedy as a focal point for the narrative, it's Bateman's character, a polio-afflicted girl named Janice, who serves as the primary protagonist. Suffice to say, Bateman brings a sensibility to her role that goes beyond her young age, and the filmmakers take advantage of her character's impeded mobility — she wears a leg brace and requires a crutch to get around — to stage some mortifyingly suspenseful moments.

For its finale, though, Annabelle: Creation takes a turn into possessed slasher territory. And while the climax proves cathartic, it's somewhat disappointing to see the atmosphere of dread cultivated over the movie's first two-thirds dissipate into a frenzied cacophony of screams. Still, the film manages to finish strong, with its final scenes linking it up directly with Annabelle, and serving as a reminder of which movie is the superior spinoff.


Annabelle: Creation releases August 11th, 2017 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for horror violence and terror. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 49 Mins.








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