In this spin-off cum prequel to THE CONJURING; we're in the 70's and we follow a young couple (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) with a brat on the way as they get spooked by an evil doll. Her name is Annabelle and she ain't playing!
I adored James Wan's THE CONJURING
(tapped it again a couple days ago, it still held up) and the Annabelle segment in that film worked gangbusters. When I heard they were gonna centre a whole film around the doll, I had my reservations; I just didn't see a stellar 90 minutes story coming out of it. Then I heard that John R. Leonetti was directing. Although a stand-out DP, the films he has directed that I have seen (The Butterfly Effect 2 and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) weren't all that. My Arrow sense was tingling the wrong way on this one and now that I have danced with this devil in the pale moonlight; I am sorry to say that my gut was on the money.
Before I rip ANNABELLE a new eye socket; lets focus on on the positive. John R. Leonetti's work behind the lens actually elevated this derivative and dull connect the dots opus. I got off on his wild camera movements and the many ominous angles he chose to shoot the doll with. Mr. Leonetti handled his fear set pieces with panache too and that was a good thing being that the film was pretty much just that; a string of scary scenes (some of them effective) strung together by a thin red line (see what I did there). I also esteemed the casting of our young Apple Pie couple. The camera loved Annabelle Wallis and she put out a strong show; vulnerable yet tough. She carried the film with class. While Ward Horton looked the part and convincingly tackled the “perfect husband” role. Now that I think of it, this couple seemed like it would have been more comfortable in the 50's than the 70's; they were BEYOND wholesome. On that; it's part of what made them and the horror pounding they took appealing. Nothing like awful things happening to VERY good people to punch things up. Lastly the doll itself was eerie as my Ex on qualudes i.e. mucho unsettling; so much so that it made me wonder: “Who the f*ck would buy this thing in the first place?”
and worse yet "What moron would put that thing in their child's room???!!!”
But I digress. The doll worked as potent horror imagery and there were a couple of stand out bits (one of them being a rip-off of the key scare from INSIDIOUS) that put the porcelain baddie to good use.
My problem with the film was that aside from a visceral prologue and one bold idea near the end (that they didn't have the balls to go with); the whole wound up being a redundant, predictable and trivial sit down. There wasn't much story going on here; so for the first half of the film, it was one familiar scare scene after the next. It was like the movie was stalling, padding up that clock time while not moving forward. And once the meat did kick in; it was handled in a dumbed down and groan inducing fashion with side characters getting in there for no other valid reason than the “ story needed them to”
and they came with laughable dialogue to boot. And should I get started on the countless DUMB MOVES to serve the plot that were found in this McCash-In? Nuggets like; “You know the doll is possessed, why not try to destroy it instead of taking it for a drive?”
. Or “Hey my wife just got attacked by a demon, I'll let her sleep in the room alone”
. COME ON MAN! You get the picture. Then we had the convenient coincidences to guide the story in the direction it NEEDED TO GO grating me. Here's one example: Of course the "out of nowhere" friendly neighbor (played by the uber talented Alfre Woodard, even she couldn't save this role) is a believer in otherworldy things and owns an Occult bookstore just next door. Why wouldn't she right? Thank Crom she wasn't a fluffer on porn shoots. This tale would'nt have budged an inch if she was. Lastly, and it wasn't a big deal, but I noticed; the flick was fairly low budget, it kept avoiding exteriors (it's set in the 70's, gotta duck showing old cars, costumes etc.) and kept it inside a house, an apartment, a basement and a staircase. I have nothing against low budget affairs but I was yearning to get outside BIG TIME after a while!
On the whole; I don't think ANNABELLE was made for me: the seasoned horror fan. It was churned out for Mr. and Miss Everybody who will most likely lap up this cliched, dense and by the numbers drivel. The crowd I saw it with sure did! You'd think they had never seen a horror movie before;and you know what, they probably hadn't. I say; wait for home release or just watch The Conjuring again. The 15 minutes of Annabelle in that bad-boy are better than this entire movie. But hey, it's your coin!
Some blood here and there. I am still baffled as to WHY this one is rated R. Is it the baby angle?
None but Annabelle had a sweet porcelain ass, I wonder if she works out.
ANNABELLE was exactly what I feared it would be. A dumb, repetitive, and derivative product made for mass consumption. Granted the cast was solid, some of the suspense bits worked, John R. Leonetti did all that he could to inject this one with fly visuals and potent tension and yes Annabelle is a brrr inducing doll. But personally; this sucka was too transparent and relied way too much on inane actions and convenient events/side characters to move its flimsy story forward. Hard to get scared when you don't buy into the story or truly care what happens. My mom would probably eat this one up though! You hear that Ma? This one's for you! Here's hoping they class it up for The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist! The world of The Conjuring deserves better than this subpar and lazy offering.