UK Release Date: 10th October 2014
Runtime: 99 minutes
Director: John R Leonetti
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola
Synopsis: Following a brutal event in their home, a suburban family find themselves terrorised by the supernatural whims of a possessed doll.
James Wan’s haunted house horror flick The Conjuring made a big splash last year. A sequel is already in the pipeline, with Wan back in the director’s chair after his break from the genre to make the new Fast & Furious movie. In the meantime, though, risible, unnecessary spin-off Annabelle is keeping the franchise alive… just barely.
Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) are terrified when their house is invaded by a pair of violent criminals who are killed, leaving behind a cult symbol on the wall. The creepy-looking doll the pair took a liking to soon turns up at Mia and John’s new house and strange things begin to happen to the family.
Annabelle is lazy horror filmmaking at its absolute worst. Nothing about the film is original in any way. The Conjuring was not exactly preoccupied with reinventing the wheel, but Annabelle takes its unoriginality to new lows. The narrative and the scares are liberally pilfered from just about every horror film of the last few decades.
| "I like your dolls."
At the centre of the film are a handful of woeful performances. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton make one of the most uninteresting horror couples of recent years. Alfre Woodard feels like a spare part in the story and her character – a bookstore owner – is used more as a plot device than she is as a genuine part of the film.
Annabelle trips up in the sense that it completely fails at constructing genuine scares. John R Leonetti – who was Director of Photography on The Conjuring and Insidious – moves into the director’s chair with absolutely none of his own unique voice. The scares are theoretically well put together, but they’re not supported by anything in the way of story.
The trailer for Annabelle is its own worst enemy. It’s a great preview, but throws away the handful of good scares that the film has in its favour. In the context of the finished film, those scares don’t work nearly as well and the rest of them aren’t nearly as cleverly done.
| "You don’t come out of something like this weaker."
In short, Annabelle is an unfocused mess let down by a director with no vision of his own. The central doll even disappears for most of the second act, as if the film forgot what it was supposed to be doing. It’s generic “cattle prod cinema” in every way and suffers from many of the bad habits that are blighting the genre.
Pop or Poop?
Full to the brim with lacklustre attempts at terror and pitiful performances, Annabelle showcases all of the generic trappings that are turning people off the horror genre.
The Conjuring is still a franchise that can pick itself up from this, but the Annabelle experiment clearly hasn’t worked. Back to the drawing board.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.