Annabelle (dir. John R. Leonetti, 2014) – Shortly after a near-fatal home invasion incident, vintage doll collector Mia begins to suspect something amiss in the house.
Severely 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, comes the prequel of The Conjuring that you never asked for either – Annabelle.
Movies that centre on killer dolls seldom amount to critical successes. This had not stopped movie goers from getting tickets. Most of these mythologies are after all great fun and appeal especially to genre fans, with the iconic dolls of Child’s Play and Demonic Toys immediately springing to mind.
Having made a solid and memorable entrance in The Conjuring, the quiet haunter Annabelle was bound for its own series sooner or later, though little did I expect ‘sooner’ to be just short of a single year.
Humanoid playthings possess a doubtlessly unsettling presence that has unfortunately already been exploited to death by horror filmmakers. Predictability makes for few genuinely decent scares, and 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 best was hardly enough, alongside mostly uninspired characters. Rounding up the yawnfest are satanic cultists, the vulnerable infant, the doubtful husband, the neighbour who knows things, and of course not forgetting, the quintessential priest.
In attempts to replicate thrills that classics like Rosemary’s Baby did better, not one scene impressed or stood out as its own. The spin-off ends up a unnecessary and redundant entry into the already-inundated pool of demonic possession tales.
Taking no risks to set itself apart, Annabelle is all too safe, which is a word synonymous with ‘dull’ in the horror genre. Despite notable cinematography responsible for a suspenseful albeit thin atmosphere, the page-by-page recreation of over-used tropes quickly gets old.
A child’s macabre drawings, survivor’s guilt, you name it, and you get the feeling that you may be better off watching The Conjuring for those few but effective minutes of the doll’s murderous stares.