Note: This review contains some minor spoilers.
One of the first “real” horror movies I can remember watching was 1987’s “Dolls”. It was the first movie I can remember that really freaked me out. For a year or so, I maintained an irrational fear that any mistreated dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, or—god forbid—ventriloquist dummies, might just come to life and seek revenge. I must not have been the only one, as there seemed to be a wave of killer doll movies in the late 80’s and early 90‘s with the Child’s Play and Puppetmaster franchises, as well as at least a dozen less notable one-offs. These days, I’m (mostly) over my fear of dolls and I did manage to make it all the way through The Conjuring as well as the first Annabelle movie. In, fact I really enjoyed those movies and, along with the Insidious franchise, they make up some of my favorite modern horror movies. This being the case, I was excited to see Annabelle Creation.
This time around, the director for the first Annabelle movie, John R. Leonetti, was replaced by “Light’s Out” director David F. Sandberg; a film I was less impressed by. Watching it in the theatre, the suspense was definitely there. The buildup to each of the big scares was particularly effective, pulling me into the scene. I even caught myself holding my breath at one point. Unfortunately, I found that the typical jump-scare payoff of these scenes were disappointing on average and—in one case—almost laughably cheesy; “I WANT YOUR SOOOoooOOOuuul!!!” Yikes! What does the demon even want with a soul anyway? If anything, it seems to be in need of a body. That’s why it spends the majority of its time living in a doll.
There were a number of other points in the movie where I found the story and dialogue fell a little short, which is surprising because I’m a fan of writer Gary Dauberman’s other work. I guess this one just didn’t connect with me as well.
I also felt some confusion regarding some of the characters. The priest, who appears to be giving them a ride at the beginning of the film, disappeared after about five minutes with no goodbye. He then inexplicably re-appeared, unannounced, at the end of the movie. It’s possible I may have missed something, but I remember being halfway through the movie, wondering where he went.
The other thing I was confused about was the presence of the four other orphan girls. That’s it. I was confused about why they were in the movie. They barely interacted with any of the main characters, they did nothing memorable or significant to the plot and, between them, they had only a couple of scenes where they interacted with the Annabelle demon, neither of which were of any real consequence to the story and still only involved two of the four girls. All four of them could have easily been condensed into one character (or even just incorporated into the two main characters), streamlining the story and probably even saving some money. My only guess is that, during the editing process, some scenes may have been removed that eliminated the point of these characters.
Also, seeing as how this is an origin story for the Annabelle demon, they could have done more to show the demon’s motivation, because it’s not really clear. Why does it so badly want a soul? What is it going to do with it if it gets one, and why is it having such a hard time making it happen? Did it manage to get a soul in the end (apparently not, according to the original Annabelle movie)? I feel like I’m just not supposed to be asking the movie these types of questions.
I’ve noticed that, in a lot of recent movies, there seems to be a trend towards having almost your entire film shot on a single set. I assume this is a cost saving measure that I’m not supposed to notice, but I do. I find it repetitive and, in the case of this movie, it takes away from the creepiness of the house. I feel like if they at least had one subplot of some kind that took place at another location, it would have helped to break things up a bit and would give us a chance to forget about the house and its many creepy dolls, before trying to scare us with them again. At over twice the budget of the first movie and with the track record of this series almost guaranteeing a return on their investment, I’d have thought that they could get beyond the nickel-and-diming stage. Who knows, maybe they blew the whole budget on unnecessary characters.
I’ve put this movie through enough. Yes, there are some plot holes. Yes, I feel like some things could have been handled better, but it’s certainly not the worst offender I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’ve seen much worse in this week alone. There were some good moments. It was able to generate an extremely creepy atmosphere at times and, for the most part, the acting was pretty effective.
The young actresses playing the two main characters Linda and Janice did a decent job filling their roles, and were convincingly scared in the key scenes. I liked Anthony LaPaglia’s performance as the husband/part time manufacturer of the world’s ugliest dolls. Not knowing who the actor was when I first walked into the move, I thought maybe he was one of the lesser-known Baldwin brothers, but it turns out he’s actually an Australian actor, known for (among a few other things), playing the recurring part of Daphne’s wacky brother Simon Moone on Frasier. I did find myself unconvinced by the character of Sister Charlotte, but I’m not sure if it was the script or maybe because this role wasn’t a good fit for her. Overall, the acting was good, especially the reactions in some of the more suspenseful scenes, where it really mattered.
So, I didn’t find myself traumatized this time around. I haven’t had any nightmares yet, but I found it to be a decent movie, even with the issues I mentioned. In my opinion, it doesn’t quite match up to the earlier movies in the Conjuring universe, but It’s worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of the franchise. I give it three SOOOoooOOOuuuls out of five.