By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
First introduced in James Wan’s The Conjuring and later given its own movie Annabelle, the utterly creepy doll returns in a film which serves as a predecessor to the first Annabelle film and the other Conjuring films. The first Annabelle movie did have its moments, but ultimately disappointed me when compared to the genuine frights delivered in The Conjuring. This new movie improves on the previous film by offering a more insightful backstory for the Annabelle lore and more effective scares that often had me tense in my seat. The movie does suffer from a few annoying horror movie cliches, but this problem doesn’t take that much away from what is a better realized and executed installment.
Years before Annabelle was in the safer custody of the Warrens, and prior to its attack on the Form family (in the first Annabelle movie), the doll was created by artisanal dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia). Named after the daughter of Samuel and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto), the doll would remain with the Mullins family years after the tragic death of said daughter. Tormented by this horrible, but accidental death, the Mullins would remain childless for quite some time. They eventually decide to offer their home to a nun and a group girls from a closed orphanage. Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and some of the girls make themselves at home quickly and comfortably, but the disabled and socially awkward Janice (Talitha Bateman) has some trouble adjusting to her new surroundings. Though her best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson) remains with Janice most of the time, Linda also longs to play with some of the older children who can run and explore the property outside the home. When Janice becomes curious about a forbidden room in the house, this curiosity leads to some serious trouble and awakens a dormant supernatural force connected with the Annabelle doll.
Written by Gary Dauberman and directed by David F. Sandberg, Annabelle: Creation doesn’t bring much new to the supernatural horror genre, but still is effective in delivering scares and dark dread. Because this movie finally offers audiences the backstory behind the scary doll, it makes for a more interesting installment than the last one. Some of the attempted scares miss their marks, but Sandberg does succeed in creating the perfect mood and setting that will certainly unsettle audiences. Of course Sandberg has help creating this bleak and chilling aesthetic with an ominous score by Benjamin Wallfisch and eerie cinematography by Maxime Alexandre.
I was also impressed with the two main young cast members who deliver exceptional performances. Both Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson shine as close friends Janice and Linda. Bateman shows tremendous range with her role and Wilson performs with much charisma and grace. The adults also perform well with the children in the movie. Stephanie Sigman exudes some charm and grace of her own as Sister Charlotte. Anthony LaPaglia brings repressed agony to Samuel Mullins and Miranda Otto radiates heartbreak as Esther Otto. The movie also stars Philippa Coulthard, Samara Lee, Grace Fulton, Tayler Buck, and Mark Bramhall.
People who were not all that impressed with the last Annabelle movie should enjoy this genuinely creepy origin story. Those who loved the last Annabelle will absolutely love the prequel. Since this chapter definitely improves the franchise, I actually look forward to see what they do next. I must highly recommend that audience members remain seated during the credits, as they will give them some clues as to what to anticipate in the future. I know I am certainly intrigued.