The opening section of The Conjuring details a case that the Warren’s took on concerning an apparent haunted/possessed doll. It was creepy & effective even if they tried a little too hard to make the doll scary looking (as if anyone would keeps such a thing about).
Such an opening was ripe to be expanded on & what we could have got was a scare-filled origin story filled with tension taking a slow build leading to a quality payoff. That’s what we could have got…
I went into Annabelle with incredibly low expectations based off its trailer that was jump-scare central, a mechanic in horror that only works when it’s used sparingly. Amazingly the movie managed to be worse than I could have ever expected.
Annabelle opens with the same opening scene from The Conjuring, 3 young people are talking to the Warren’s about their experience with a haunted doll called Annabelle. We than jump a year back in time to meet John & Mia Form (who is heavily pregnant) who are happily married & living in a nice little suburb.
Mia collects dolls & after cross words with John is presented with a gift. He has got her a doll she has wanted for a while…the Annabelle doll. It takes pride of place in her creepy collection. While asleep one night their neighbours are attacked & murdered by a man & woman who than break in to the Forms while John is investigating next door.
The man attacks Mia before being shot by police with the woman cutting her own throat holding the Annabelle doll. She scrawls a symbol on the wall before a drop of her blood falls into the dolls eye. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that something occult-like has just gone on & the film makes a point of focusing heavily on the doll (get used to that).
Later it is discovered that the woman involved in the killing was the neighbour’s estranged daughter (called Annabelle) & her boyfriend who were part of a cult that practices Satanism. We learn this from a police detective who turns up twice in the movie to answer any questions Mia & the audience has, it is infuriating.
Creeped out by the dolls involvement Mia gets John to throw it away. Later after a fire, Mia gives birth to a daughter & the family move to a new apartment. While unpacking Mia finds the doll & decides to face her fears & keep it. Unsurprisingly lots of weird stuff starts happening again & Mia begins to suspect the doll is involved somehow.
Thank to our plot-filling police-detective we find out that the woman, Annabelle & her boyfriend’s cult believed they could summon a demon by claiming a soul. Mia realises that the ghost of Annabelle is connected with the doll & that she is after her daughter’s soul.
So Annabelle takes a huge number of mis-steps starting with its leads – they are just so ordinary that they become incredibly boring & unlikable. I understand what the film was going for…extraordinary things happening to ordinary people but by making them so plain & at times, idiotic they just ended up being flat & boring. Any attempt at character development is abandoned almost as soon as it gets started…The Forms appear to have a good marriage that might be straining under the stuff that has happened to them but it’s rarely used properly.
The film also decides to use the husband John in the disbelieving role…something that has been done to death. His wife sees things happening around the house & of course he dismisses it. We’ve seen this a hundred times but it is the worst here because of the situation that lead up to it. I won’t spoil it for you but you’ve seen it in the trailer…that Mia would just accept her husbands dismissiveness & carry on is shockingly unbelievable for someone who has been built up to be believable.
The film is littered with instances like this…Mia knows her baby is under attack but leaves her alone in the flat to go to the basement on a dark night. It’s so mind-blowingly stupid but does lead into the movies best sequence & something that manages to be creepy (Although Grave Encounters 2 did it better).
The introduction of other characters does little to help the movie as they are clearly brought in for specific reasons that can be spotted miles away. Sub-plots about neighbourhood kids, a noisy upstairs family & devil worship fall flat as they just aren’t expanded on. A serious trick was missed not to expanded & lean towards a more Rosemary’s Baby set-up which I was convinced was the case at one stage.
It feels like the creators were going for that but pulled back at the last minute in fear of being called copy-cats.
All of this still isn’t the worst thing about the movie though…no, the worst thing about Annabelle is its total lack of subtly. God-damn it…I’ve complained about this so much & seeing the trailer for Ouija before-hand suggest nothing will be changing anytime soon.
With Annabelle we already know what the deal is so there is no surprise factor there (although it attempts with a devil/demon thing). The film starts of trying to be subtle & clever but around the half-way mark it just goes, fuck it & pretty much explodes in our faces. It even tries to go back to subtle chills afterwards…it doesn’t work as the major scare (in the trailer) has happened already. No build up, just jump scare!
Every camera angle is set-up to show something in the background. This would be perfectly effective if it wasn’t done so obviously. What happened to fleeting shots of something leaving the viewer wondering if we saw that? In Annabelle the director makes sure you saw it. They might as well have held up an arrow saying “look, ghosts & demons here”.
Annabelle’s music is standard ghostly fair with the usual screeches when the movie decides it wants to make you jump. Blah…seen it all before…
It’s ending (which is disappointing), thankfully, leads into The Conjuring so there is no chance of more Annabelle back-stories. However I’m sure they have their eyes on a franchise here so expect this to be done to death over the next few years.
One of the laziest haunted films in the last few years. How has this cycle not died out yet? Aren’t people sick of rubbish movies that try to make you jump? That isn’t how good scares are done…