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John’s Horror Corner: Annabelle: Creation (2017), super creepy, super jumpy, super evil, and a fine addition to The Conjuring Universe.

August 11, 2017


MY CALL:  Very jumpy, very creepy, and very much more worthy of your time than part 1!  MORE MOVIES LIKE Annabelle: CreationWell, The Conjuring (2013; podcast discussion of The Conjuring 2), Annabelle (2014; podcast discussion of Annabelle) and The Conjuring 2 (2016) round out The Conjuring Universe. For more evil doll movies one may venture Dead Silence (2007), Dolls (1987), Dolly Dearest (1981)  Puppet Master 1-5 (1989-1994), The Boy (2016), Child’s Play (1988), Curse of Chucky (2013) and even Poltergeist (1982; that evil clown was twisted).

Twelve years after the tragic loss of their daughter Bee (Samara Lee; The Last Witch Hunter), doll-maker Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia; Innocent Blood, So I Married an Axe Murderer) and his now ailing wife Esther (Miranda Otto; War of the Worlds, What Lies Beneath) agree to offer their home as an orphanage for a nun (Stephanie Sigman; Narcos) and six girls. Linda (Lulu Wilson; Ouija: Origin of Evil, Deliver Us from Evil) and her friend are drawn to a doll hidden away in Bee’s bedroom and…well, you know…there’s an evil doll, demonic possession…bad stuff happens.

The Conjuring Universe SIDEBAR: This has been labeled “the next chapter in The Conjuring Universe,” and a Conjuring movie is exactly what this feels like.  Well, The Conjuring (2013) was so outstanding that Annabelle (2014) couldn’t be expected to measure up. But falling far below that, evil doll movies practically make themselves yet Annabelle was an absolutely incompetent horror film that should disappoint fans of the genre whether they were birthed in the era of serious slashers, classic Hammer releases, or campy 80s slapstick gore-fests. The only way Annabelle made it to the big screen was by riding the tidal wave of hype created by its connection to The Conjuring. Then along came The Conjuring 2 (2016)—which felt a lot like Insidious “Chapter 4”—which was clearly made more for the fans than the critics as it focused more on being excitingly jump-scary than on standard merits or sleek plotiness.  This sequel introduced The Nun (i.e., the demon Valek) and gave a fine nod to Annabelle.  Following suit, Creation offers a mysterious wink harbingering the upcoming Nun film (same writer as Creation) and then finishes transitioning us directly into the opening scene of Annabelle (2014).

I wasn’t at all surprised to learn this was directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out), as it felt very much like Lights Out (2016) meets The Conjuring 2 (2016) in terms of scare-staging, the use of darkness and flickering lights, the super twitchy monster manifestations, and the roller-coasting dozens of jump scares. I should repeat part of that: DOZENS of jump scares.  Holding together far more soundly and satisfyingly than Annabelle (2014), this plot still wasn’t terribly substantial. It had “just enough,” with the story feeling neither deep nor shallow, and quite familiar without being phoned in or rehashed.  But, then again, we are in The Conjuring Universe and the conduits by which evil manifests in our present cinescape seem to follow the same rules or patterns as we have now witnessed in a total of four films.  It’s the kind of familiarity we find in a Freddy, Jason, Pinhead or Myers sequel…we know the general rules, but we also expect some new angle in each new film to come.

Now I just called this “familiar.” But, make no mistake, it’s quite exciting after a somewhat slow introduction to our premise.  But then becomes exciting if you enjoy jump scares.  As I mentioned earlier, this film thrives on them. You’ll hear something creepy, stare into a pitch-black hallway or doorway for 8 seconds, and press your head into your seat to brace yourself for the inevitable incoming scare.  This may bother folks looking for the next horror Oscar contender, but people just looking for a fun date night or a great popcorn horror will be in for a good time.  In fact, I’d call this outstanding popcorn horror.

What gore we get is good, the acting is all on point, the demon monster effects were VERY creepy, and despite the high frequency of jump-scares there were some seriously legitimate scares as well.  I really appreciated that all that this film tried to do; give us a prequel, connect adequately to both The Conjuring (2013) and Annabelle (2014), provide a semblance of continuity, and serve as a stand-alone horror film.  And, perhaps its best quality, it never really felt like an evil doll movie.  It felt more like a mix between a cursed object and a demonic haunting/possession/presence.  It certainly kept me on my toes.

Overall, I’d say I was quite pleased.  I’ll certainly buy it and, due to the sheer joy derived from all the jump-scares, I look forward to sharing this with someone who hasn’t yet seen it.

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