Director: John R. Leonetti
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Almendola, Alfre Woodard, Kerry O’Malley, Brian Howe
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Running Time: 99 mins
Release date: 10th October 2014
Last year saw the release of a reasonably decent horror called The Conjuring, about Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. They possess a doll that they keep under lock and key in their museum. This doll has now been given her own film and, if The Conjuring was a well made shocker, this is a dull and unoriginal prequel that, apart from an interesting start and a few effective shocks, reverts back to the quiet, quiet, LOUD school of terror and it just doesn’t work.
Mia and John are expecting their first child. Mia collects dolls and John brings home a giant toy with a less than flattering face. After their neighbours are killed in a Charles Manson style cult killing and the attackers enter into the home of the couple, the doll is left in the arms of one of the intruders after her suicide. Moving to Pasadena, the doll, thought to have been thrown away, ends up in a box with the couple and once again becomes part of the household. When the baby is born, Mia starts seeing things that could be related to the dead assailants and possibly the devil,
The first section of the film, which covers the horrific murders of Manson’s brutal killings, makes you think that this is going to be a very different film to its predecessor. A shocking and quite nasty opening, you begin to think that this is going to be taking you down a road that most modern horror films fear to tread, that of satanic cults. Alas, this is only a catalysis to the usual and mundane. Once the family move, we are offered a less-than-exciting variation of Rosemary’s Baby with the added creepy doll.
This is the film’s major problem. Horror films about dolls and demonic toys have been filling the cinemas for years and so it has to be a very special to make an impact. There is nothing we haven’t seen before and especially when you think of films like Magic or even the Child’s Play films, these took ideas that have played out before and gave them a breath of fresh air. Annabelle doesn’t have an inch of originality. Even the possessed girl looks like a reject from The Ring.
It also makes you wonder why a couple would want a doll that hideous looking. Sitting among a collection of fair-faced, porcelain toys, it sticks out like a demonic creature. Then when young Mia starts seeing things, hearing noises and even having a K-Tel record play by itself, you would have thought she would have the good sense and maybe see the local priest sooner than they do, although he turns out to be no help whatsoever and so we have to go from one door slamming to another, making the audience yawn more than jump.
It lacks any real motivation to keep moving. At 99 minutes, it is relatively short but it seems to go on forever. When it does come up with a decent idea, like a scene involving a mysterious young girl standing in a different room, what could have got the biggest scream of the film, it’s in the trailer and so the shock is lessened drastically.
The performances are lacking the punch that The Conjuring has but then both Vera Farimga and Patrick Wilson are nowhere to be seen. Annabelle Wallis is left doing nothing more than screaming and running, while Tony Almendola looks more like a low-budget F. Murray Abrahams. Only Alfie Woodard, as bookshop owner who befriends Mia gives the film some well-needed gravitas.
The original Annabelle was a large “Raggedy Ann” doll, which would have been unsettling, whereas the Annabelle here is not so much creepy but just horrible and not in a good way. The same could be said of the film and, to be honest, I am getting bored with horror films that rely on doors slamming and a sudden loud noise. It’s frankly lazy.