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CINEMASCOPE: HELL AND BACK

August 27, 2017

If you had watched this prequel to The Conjuring (2013) and Annabelle (2014), you may not have expected Annabelle: Creation to be worth your time. After all, Annabelle was quite disappointing, especially for fans of its excellent predecessor. By and large, it felt like a by-the-numbers supernatural horror film that featured mostly uninspired scares, a forgettable plot, and an ill-advised ending.

Surprisingly, Annabelle: Creation is a prequel that improves upon its predecessor in just about every way. My only piece of advice to cine-goers before they watch it is to avoid the trailers as much as you can, for they give far too much away.

Annabelle: Creation begins in 1943, where Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther Mullins (Miranda Otto) are in deep mourning for the loss of their little daughter in a car accident. Soon after, a spirit makes contact with them and the couple believe it to be their daughter. This supernatural being convinces Samuel, a doll-maker, to help it possess a doll he made. But it doesn’t take long for them to realise that the being is not their daughter but a hellacious demon. Here, the pair lock the doll up in the closet of their daughter’s old room and trap it with the assistance of a priest. Yes, their daughter’s name was Annabelle, a name the demonic doll is only too happy to take on.

Over 10 years later, the couple provide shelter to a nun named Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and six orphan girls. Here, they warn their guests not to enter Annabelle’s room. One of the orphans named Janice (Talitha Bateman), who happens to have polio, frees the doll, and hence begin the horrors of Annabelle: Creation.

I found the plot of the film to be interesting, though not outstanding, while I thought the characterisation was somewhat shallow. But credit to all the actors in the film whose performances left me invested in the narrative. Particularly impressive are the child actors, with thoroughly convincing turns as children facing off horror. In particular Talitha is the perfect fodder for Annabelle’s worst terrors. I also enjoyed how her polio back-story was played into the set-pieces, and Talitha is very good at playing a differently-abled character.

That being said, as it goes with most horror films, the narrative relies on the characters being rather stupid. There are several scenes in Annabelle: Creation where I was silently asking the characters on screen why they were continuing to do what they were doing, especially when danger was so clearly foreshadowed. At times they simply walk into trouble needlessly. Also, why not just leave and start a new life in another location far away? Why stay in the house when you know something is terribly wrong? Well, there wouldn’t be a film otherwise, that’s why.

In terms of the scares, the CGI effects are the least effective. They feel at odds with the grounded nature of the rest of the film. The rest of the scares I enjoyed, even if many of them were cheap jump scares. The main difference between Annabelle: Creation and Annabelle is that it allows its brew of frights to cook patiently in a concoction that offers above-average pacing.

Annabelle: Creation may not be perfect, but in a genre littered with chillingly bad films, it’s worth a viewing for horror fans.

Rated R for horror, violence and terror

Published in Dawn, ICON, August 27th, 2017