Annabelle (dir. John R. Leonetti, 2014) – Vintage doll collector Mia suspects something amiss in her home.
Lacking in originality, Annabelle is an unnecessary spin-off that treads ever so safely on a conventional hauntings origin story.
From the director who brought you the sequels of The Butterfly Effect and Mortal Kombat you never asked for. Here comes the prequel of The Conjuring that no one had ever asked for either, Annabelle.
Killer doll films seldom have an original story to tell. Spare the genre’s godfather Child’s Play and cult classic Demonic Toys, which made their debut way before their subpar imitators. Not that movie-goers mind.
The silent haunter Annabelle was bound to have her own series sooner or later, having made a memorable entrance in The Conjuring. Not many however could have predicted that ‘sooner’ was just short of a single year.
Annabelle has her work cut out for her. As a humanoid plaything, it already possesses a natural unsettling presence in the dark. If only horror filmmakers had not exploited their darting eyes and sentient smile to death. Predictability hence makes for few decent scares.
The ones that did work owe credit to the coincidentally named Annabelle Wallis, whose sympathetic lead performance single-handedly anchors the film with credibility. Her leading woman is with child, leading to attempts in replicating thrills from Rosemary’s Baby. There is no doubt who did better.
Rounding up the yawnfest are uninspired stereotypes. We have satanic cultists, the vulnerable infant, the doubtful husband and the neighbour who knows things. Oh, how could we ever forget the quintessential priest?
In the already-inundated pool of demonic possession tales, this feels like a redundant entry. Not one scene stood out in the spin-off that is heavily reliant on its obvious influences.
Taking no risks to set itself apart, Annabelle plays it all too safe. Despite notable cinematography responsible for a suspenseful albeit thin atmosphere, the page-by-page recreation of over-used tropes quickly gets old.
As the seconds pass, it becomes clear that sometimes, less is more. Why not re-watch The Conjuring for those brief yet effective minutes of Annabelle’s murderous stares, with a much better story to boot?