Annabelle (2014)

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Back to The Halloween Club side of things and here comes the spin off/prequel feature from last years ‘The Conjuring’. Now this film may have some suspenseful moments and thrust the creepy doll in question down our throats but apart from that it lacks the same style associated with ‘The Conjuring’, it also lacks on scares and sense.

Once again the three med students open proceedings and then we shoot back a year to focus on married and expectant couple Mia (Annabelle Wallis – very apt, did they only do a casting call for that name!?) and John Gordon (Ward Horton). A gift for the to be child is a doll Mia has always wanted and it of course is the lanky and frankly chilling Annabelle doll, which after being bled into by the suicide of a satanic cult member becomes the carrier of evil demons trying to gain a soul.

Firstly it’s just a laughable premise of having this doll, I mean why on Earth would you ever see that thing and desire it. Before it even becomes scratched and ruined it still looks creepy as sin. I guess at first there’s a sort of valuable reason but then when she takes it back after she never wanted to see it again it makes the movie feel tired to throw in some lame excuse to bring the hideous toy back. Secondly where the Warren and the Perron family had two stories coming together in a mass head of spooks and terror, this release only really has Mia to struggle through the torment of a possessed item and replacing clever camera work and on point tension is predictable jump scares and cliches.

There are a small scattering of chilling moments that do make you sink into your chair, such as the shadowy devil lurking on the stairs, the neat elevator sequence opening onto the doom of the same level and in fact the first scene with the two cult members was actually pretty terrifying because it was real and bloody. Otherwise it’s just cheap thrills to try and make the audience feel they’re being scared when deep down they probably aren’t at all.

It’s a case again of music doing an awful lot to do the heavy lifting. Joseph Bishara does the score once more and it’s a dot to dot drawing of softly softly softly BANG to produce the jumps, therefore not really the moment in the film being scary, just the sudden loud noise. It’s an obvious thing that Conjuring director James Wan didn’t direct this film as it feels so weakened down, there isn’t anything special going on and that’s annoying because it could have been a much more stylised film.

Also where ‘The Conjuring’ script had patches of well written humour, ‘Annabelle’ feels dry on any chance of comedic possibilities. A good horror in my opinion should mix comedy and scares in equal measure making the jump more prominent in contrast to the lighter side of things. Gary Dauberman wrote this script and it’s not outstanding in the slightest, but the story is bonkers and entirely there just to suit a spin off’s needs. The children on the stairs are thrown in, the upstairs arguing neighbours feel like a wasted and unnecessary point, the whole ending could have redeemed everything by being brave and sad but that is lost before it begins.

Annabelle Wallis deals with the majority of the film rather well to be fair and as a leading lady and scream queen figure does the needed job of reacting in shock to increasing actions of hellish behaviour, it could almost be compared to Alison Lohman’s role in ‘Drag Me to Hell’, but not because the latter is so much better in terms of giving a different and over the top role. Ward Horton has little to nothing to do and misses all cases of Satan’s curse being away on his luckily placed night shifts. It’s a film that makes you pine for Lorraine and Ed Warren to come back as they have charisma to carry the film, bring on ‘The Conjuring 2’ is all I can say as it will reunite Wan, Wilson and Farmiga.

I watched this in the cinema in the evening and found it less worrying than ‘The Conjuring’ which I watched during the day on my laptop, I mean there’s something wrong there. Chucky the doll this ain’t, a migraine inducing amount of close ups of the creepy doll’s face can’t compensate for how unscary this film is. It just doesn’t really do anything, the doll or the movie.

4.5/10

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