Director: John R. Leonetti
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard
Runtime: 99 minutes
Release date: 24 October 2014
When The Conjuring became a humungous hit last year, Warner Bros. decided to milk the cow as much as possible. So not only are we getting sequel set for release in 2016, but at least three spin-offs as well. The first spin-off is Annabelle, of course.
To refresh your memory, Annabelle is the so-called "possessed" doll that had a few appearances in The Conjuring. No, Annabelle is nothing like Chucky as she doesn’t walk, talk and go around killing people with dangerous objects. Unlike Chucky, who is possessed by the spirit of a human being, Annabelle is basically manipulated (not possessed) by a demon, who uses the doll as a means of scaring its victims by having the doll shift into different positions, moving the doll into different locations, and even using its supernatural powers.
For those who don’t know, The Conjuring is based on (supposedly) true events, so naturally Annabelle is too. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, one of whose cases The Conjuring is based upon, and who also investigated the Annabelle case, reported that the real Annabelle doll was in fact given to a nursing student named Donna by her mother as a birthday gift back in 1970, and which Donna’s mom bought from a hobby store. This mysteriously intriguing story was used as a mini sub-plot in The Conjuring, and played a really small part in this film.
However, Annabelle’s origins continue to remain a mystery as Ed and Lorraine Warren never figured out how the demon came into contact with the doll. This spin-off film, however, takes the impossible leap of faith and attempts to tell a fictionalised version of Annabelle’s origins. Does it succeed? Sadly not, which leads me to ask why the filmmakers couldn’t have gone with the real-life tale instead of inventing a predictable origin that quite frankly doesn’t necessarily need to be told?
In The Conjuring, there was something almost intriguing (yet creepy) about Annabelle that generated enough interest in a spin-off film – that’s why anticipation for this film is sky-high. This spin-off however, does not make the title character either interesting or compelling. Instead we’re left with a clichéd origin tale that only entertains on mediocre levels, which is a shame as there’s so much wealth in the real-life Annabelle story.
Viewing the film’s conclusion, it’s heavily implied that the filmmakers are saving the real-life tale for future films, which was a bad decision on their part as they’ve now condemned this promising first chapter into a middling uninspired film that had the potential to be something great.
The film’s fictionalised plot follows couple Mia (played coincidently by actress Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) who are expecting their first child. John buys Mia a doll (Annabelle of course) to add to her collection. One night, two members of a satanic cult invade their home with the female member taking a huge liking to the Annabelle doll. Of course, a scuffle ensures followed by the female member killing herself with the Annabelle doll in her hands and a strange symbol embedded on the wall behind her written in blood. And yes you guessed it, strange occurrences begin following thereafter with the doll being the number one suspect – sound familiar?
Despite the film exploring Annabelle’s fictional origins, there’s still a sense of hollowness as the title character is not explored in enough detail and the audience (after watching this film), will definitely be unaware of who Annabelle really is as she ultimately takes a back seat to the human characters in her own film. All you’ll know about Annabelle once the credits roll is that she possesses supernatural abilities.
Even the story lacked detail as the satanic sub-plot questions are never answered in depth and Annabelle’s ambitions were ultimately rushed during the climax, indicating that this film was rushed on the back of The Conjuring's hype, and not enough time went into the story.
Luckily there’s a silver lining as the film is scary as hell. Of course it’s not as scary as The Conjuring – which was expected – but Annabelle still manages to come pretty close in the scare department. The scares surprisingly keep the film compelling enough to sit through as it delivers satisfying chills that’ll have you jumping and jolting out of your seat.
The acting is sadly wooden, but who can blame the cast as the script offers cardboard cut-out characters that represent the usual horror clichés.
Although not as scary as The Conjuring, Annabelle comes pretty close as it packs in enough scares that satisfy. However, it suffers from a predictable story which ultimately lets it down. Don’t get me wrong, Annabelle is not necessarily a bad film, nor is it a great film, it’s basically just… average, and is at least better than other moderate horror films.
Those looking for a good scare will ultimately be thrilled, while those looking for a balance (good scares and a compelling story) might be disappointed.
If you’re keen to know more on the real-life Annabelle story, check out the Warren’s website.
Check out the trailer for Annabelle below: