DIR: David F. Sandberg • WRI: Gary Dauberman, Gary Dauberman • PRO: Peter Safran, James Wan • DOP: Maxime Alexandre • ED: Michel Aller • DES: Jennifer Spence • MUS: Benjamin Wallfisch • CAST: Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Stephanie Sigman, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto
In my 2014 review of Annabelle, the original spin-off from James Wan’s immensely successful Conjuring series, I wrote that ‘Let’s face it, when you create a doll as inherently creepy looking as Annabelle you’re sort of asking for a demon to possess it. An evil spirit would be the only thing on earth (or beyond) to find this caricature of fugly appealing’. While the demonic dolly remains as frightful looking as ever, Annabelle: Creation manages to pull off a rare feat; it surpasses its predecessor while still contextualising it so that a comprehensive cinematic universe is expanded upon. Director David F. Sandberg stays true to the style of the series previous instalments but ramps up the scares to create a genuinely terrifying horror film with substance.
After the death of their young daughter, doll maker Samuel Mullins (LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Otto) decide to open their now sadly empty home to a group of dislocated orphaned girls and their carer, Sister Charlotte (Sigman). Among the new arrivals are devoted best friends Linda (Wilson) and Janice (Bateman), the latter of whom has been made lame by polio. No sooner have the girls settled into their new rooms, however, then things begin to go bump in the night. After being drawn by an unseen force inside the usually locked bedroom of the Mullin’s deceased daughter, Janice discovers a rather creepy looking doll sequestered in a cupboard lined with pages from the Bible – and then the real fun starts.
On paper, the film seems like a typical paint-by-numbers haunted house affair, but, thanks to Sandberg’s slick direction, great production design and an effective soundtrack, it is elevated to something more. It’s the little touches that culminate to create an atmosphere of horror, and a prime example in this film is the subtle, yet almost constant, rumbling noise in the distance, under the character’s dialogue. With a less skilled director this could have been hugely distracting, but Sandberg utilises this sound effect so well that instead it succeeds in conveying a feeling of unrelenting, approaching dread that the characters are powerless to escape from.
All of this is aided by the surprisingly engaging performances from the two child leads, Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman, who are given the benefit of actual character development from the script rather than being reduced to the moving props that scream on cue role that other horror films assign to their child-aged characters. In comparison, the performances of their adult counterparts, though passable, fall somewhat flat and clunky dialogue is sprinkled throughout the film, though not enough to be distracting. Another weakness of the film lies more in its role as a continuation of the Conjuring universe rather than as a standalone piece, but for those hard-core horror fans that love to immerse themselves in the lore of these narratives the film does not add much to the Annabelle ‘mythology’ and instead merely builds on information already revealed to audiences in The Conjuring and Annabelle. This is, however, a small dent on an otherwise well-crafted flick.
Annabelle: Creation manages to undo a lot of the damage done from its 2014 predecessor and uses the best elements of the horror genre to create something that feels familiar but not fatigued. A solid film for those searching for a shot of adrenalin and no desire to go to sleep anytime soon.
16 (See IFCO for details)
Annabelle: Creation is released 11th August 2017