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‘Annabelle: Creation’ Conjures Up A Funhouse Horror Prequel (Movie Review)

There’s no real reason for a prequel to a bad modern horror film to be this much fun. Those were the exact thoughts I had last year with Ouija: Origin of Evil, the prequel to the truly awful Ouija. Now I’m in the same position with Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to The Conjuring spin-off Annabelle. That film was also dreadful, but apparently making a horror prequel to these bad movies was the solution. It’s either that or adding young Lulu Wilson to the cast, as this little girl was in both prequels and seems to be doing well with films involving supernatural torment.

 

A prologue sets us up for the discomfort to come. Anthony LaPaglia stars as Samuel Mullins, a dollmaker. He and his wife, Esther Mullins (Mirando Otto), live in a house out in the country and lose their daughter in an unfortunate accident. Years later, the Mullins open up their home to several young girls and a nun (Stephanie Sigman), who plan to use the house as an orphanage. It should be clear where things go from here.

Individual rooms are kept locked for a reason. No matter though, as the girls hear bumps in the night and see things they can’t believe. All of this seems to be centered around a creepy doll that has a habit of appearing at the strangest of moments (and usually signaled by the creaking of a door or rocking chair).

This is all horror 101, and director David F. Sandberg is not trying to reinvent the wheel with this film. What Sandberg does do, however, is find ways to maximize the joy of seeing creepiness stem from this doll in a variety of clever ways. Thanks to a big, creepy house, featuring a dumb waiter and hidden rooms, along with a large work shed, the film has plenty of ways to scare its audience. Many things go bump in the night here, with plenty of vulnerability to be found in the young girls who are subject to the terror around them.

The effectiveness of this film has me wanting to put faith in the future of Sandberg. He impressed me with Lights Out, a feature-length adaptation of his 3-minute horror short. Sandberg is currently signed on to direct Shazam, which is decidedly different than his horror output but will ideally have a similar level of creativity. Where the first Annabelle felt limited in vision (it primarily took place in a bland apartment), this film seems like it has plenty of life thanks to a solid handle on the house these characters occupy and a classic play with negative space when it comes to the many scenes set at night.

What I’m saying is that this film can be scary for the right audience and in a fun way. With some many layers to this setting, it works as a funhouse horror movie that wants the audience to be screaming at these characters to “turn around!” or not go into certain tight spaces. Even the reveals as to why evil has crept into these character’s lives come with a dark sense of joy because the film is happy to go to certain familiar levels.

Fittingly, Annabelle: Creation even does a good job of fitting in with the rest of The Conjuring universe. Sandberg does what he needs to in replicating enough of James Wan’s style, while still making this a film of his own. There are also little easter eggs to spot, providing enough reason for fans to enjoy how this cinematic universe is going about connecting itself without drowning in connective tissue. Compare that to an unnecessary half hour in The Mummy devoted to laying the groundwork for future films and one can appreciate the simple pleasures of a modern horror movie series that has stumbled upon a way to make this cinematic universe thing work by chance.

Make no mistake, Annabelle: Creation is not a horror movie that changes the game in any way. Even compared to other Conjuring-related films, work done by Wilson, Sigman and Talitha Bateman only goes so far compared to the layered performances from Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. While I may not be huge on The Conjuring, there’s something to be said for the effort put into bringing that “true” story to life. With Annabelle: Creation, I was happy to have fun.

While the film eventually finds a way to earn its R-rating, I found glee in the way it built its tension and paid it off through effective jump scares and other bits of creepiness. Some violent images occur as well, but that’s just a means to an end for this eerie doll flick. If the other Conjuring spin-offs can be this much fun, I say keep the spookiness going.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

3 Responses to “‘Annabelle: Creation’ Conjures Up A Funhouse Horror Prequel (Movie Review)”


  1. Brian White

    I didn’t jump once. Was kind of bored throughout the same old thing here for me.

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yeah, a bit surprised, given some of the films you’ve given a pass to, but I dunno, I’m talking to a guy that hasn’t even seen Dunkirk.

  3. Brian White

    You mean the guy who will NEVER see Dunkirk. 🙂