Annabelle Creation review: The Conjuring cinematic universe expands with this prequel to a prequel.
Annabelle Creation review by Kat Hughes.
The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, was a surprise smash, one that also managed to be genuinely terrifying. The movie introduced us to the demon hunting Warrens and their chamber of horrors, the most of horrific of those being a creepy doll known as Annabelle. Despite having hardly any screen time, she’s what most audience members remember most vividly. It was inevitable then that she would get her own film. Sadly, Annabelle was a disappointment, falling into all the horror cliches without much originality. Now though Wan has brought in David F Sandberg, who directed last year’s brilliant Light’s Out as the story travels even further back in time.
The Mullin family are God-fearing gentle folks who live a nice peaceful life together out in the sticks. Patriarch Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) makes a living as a doll-maker, something his daughter Bee (Samara Lee) loves. The happiness is cut short however, when Bee is tragically killed. Cut to twelve years later and the clearly changed Mullins open their house to a young nun and her orphan wards. Janice (Talitha Bateman), one of the youngest of the group, has been stricken with polio, and whilst the other girls go off exploring their new environment, she is trapped indoors. She begins to explore the house and soon realises that the Mullins are hiding a deadly secret and a familiar faced doll is connected to it. Can Janice and her friends survive?
Annabelle: Creation is vastly superior to Annabelle, the story making more sense and better fitting into the Conjuring universe. However, it is so much like a Conjuring film that lines get blurred; the film relies on a lot of the conventions within Conjuring 1 and 2. The most distracting element is that one of our main orphans is named Janice, a name that is just too similar to Janet, the terrorised tween in The Conjuring 2. It’s a constant reminder of the other film, and when coupled with the usual drawn-out scare sequences, feels a little too much like a hybrid of The Conjuring and its sequel. Also, in a bid to remind audiences about this new cinematic universe there is at least one cameo from the other films (which obviously comes later in the story). These feel a little cheap and, as they add nothing to the narrative, could easily have been left out.
Related: Annabelle review
Another niggle is the run-time. It’s not very often that a horror film that is longer than around 90 minutes actually needs the extra time, and this is a perfect example. Clocking in at just under two hours there’s a very slow and measured pace to the story which drags in places. We also don’t need to see every girl terrorised by something ghastly, just leave it as the main characters.
What David F Sandberg does well though, is a scare sequence, and Creation has plenty of them. Pretty much the entire middle third is one continuous string of nightmarish visuals. They’re not quite on the same level as his work on Light’s Out, but are effective all the same. He manages to capture that ‘in the middle of the night terror’ that children experience perfectly, and several moments are bound to pop into your head late at night and scare you all over again.
The young cast are great, this is a film that focuses way more on the kids than the adults. Linda (Lulu Wilson) is rather kick-ass as she faces her fears in order to try and save her best friend. She definitely has all the makings of a future final girl. Wilson was last seen playing Doris in Ouija: Origin of Evil, and whilst it’s a little odd seeing her on the other side of demonic possession, she once more proves that she’s a young star to keep an eye on.
The timid will spend more of the movie looking at the palms of their hands than at the actual film, whilst the hardy will enjoy how deftly the scares are set-up. The ending is clever and pleasing to those invested in this cinematic universe; it is seemingly a fitting ending of the story of the demonic doll, unless we get a prequel to the prequel’s prequel…
Although a little bloated and too concerned with linking into The Conjuring universe, Annabelle: Creation is a massive step-up from Annabelle. With great performances by the young cast, and some excellent scare sequences, Creation has more than enough to keep you up at night.
Annabelle Creation review by Kat Hughes, August 2017.
Annabelle: Creation is in UK cinemas now.