As you can see by our The Conjuring review, we adored that flick and one part of the fear factor clearly came from that doll, simply known as Annabelle.
Well, now we get the prequel and it's pretty obvious by the title, Annabelle, that this horror entry into the October Halloween scare fest focuses squarely on how that creepy doll became so creepy.
Annabelle Wallis is Mia and Ward Horton is her husband John. It’s the '60s and they live in Santa Monica just as the Manson killings are putting fear into Los Angeles county residents.
Mia is expecting the couple’s first child and as a gift, John gives his wife a doll (yup, that one) that she had been searching for everywhere to “complete” the baby’s room -- frankly, all of this baby’s dolls are spooky!
But, given the massive and elongated close-ups of Annabelle by director John R. Leonetti (The Conjuring director James Wan is a producer), you get the picture that there’s something unique about this one.
When a brutal home invasion by satanic cultists leave their neighbors murdered, the attackers enter our couple's home
-- as teased in the Annabelle trailer -- and are killed, and then a little blood spills on our doll that one of the killers took a liking to.
Let’s just say things are never the same again.
Mia and John have their baby. The doll acts weird. They give rid of said doll. They move to Pasadena, and guess what shows up? Yup, Annabelle. And instead of freaking out completely, Mia puts the tarnished and now looking more spooky than ever doll right up on the baby’s bookcase. No big whoop.
It is at this point that we start having some real issues with Annabelle. There’s a whole lot of suspension of disbelief that goes into most horror movies in order to have them be fun and horrific to the audience. But there are several problems with Annabelle, and one is that it is not in the least bit scary. There are moments when the audience will jump, sure, but we actually think that those are knee-jerk reactions to horror situations our mind tells us to jump at, not necessarily because what we saw on screen truly terrified us.
There are two things that save this film from becoming more of a Halloween ha-ha than a Halloween horror classic and that is Alfre Woodard and Tony Amendola. The veteran actors bring a level of sophistication to the film that is otherwise lacking. Woodard plays a concerned neighbor with knowledge of the supernatural and occult and Amendola portrays their priest from church who counsels the couple in their “troubled” times.
Both Amendola and Woodard become intimately involved when the scare meter starts inching higher as we move towards our conclusion. And that is a brilliant stroke of storytelling by screenwriter Gary Dauberman. The does the doll (or the devil?) want the baby storyline becomes a little muddled, but with Woodard and Amendola joining Wallis and Horton in the not so scary but still pretty thrilling conclusion, our Annabelle review finds the film manages to salvage some sort of weight.
Watch The Conjuring online to see where this thing is going because from the way Annabelle ended, we think that the Warrens and the Conjuring connection will likely continue.