A group of orphans and a nun battle a demonic force personified by a creepy-looking doll in this latest installment of the The Conjuring Universe. Annabelle: Creation is a prequel-sequel to Annabelle (2014), a fictional account of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s battle with an allegedly possessed Raggedy Ann doll. This film departs entirely from reality, imagining an origin story for the doll. Both critics and audiences seem to enjoy it. Overall, it had a few eye-rolling moments, but it had a few genuinely scary ones as well.
Annabelle: Creation was written by Gary Dauberman and directed by David F. Sandberg. Both Dauberman and Sandberg are relatively new to their craft. Dauberman is known for previously writing Annabelle (2014) and the low-budget Swamp Devil (2008), and Sandberg has directed several short films and Lights Out (2016).
The filmmakers’ inexperience is probably why this movie doesn’t take any risks. It is a strictly paint-by-numbers modern American horror film. It is filled with obvious bloopers, like Samuel Mullins “tickling” his daughter’s feet when she’s wearing shoes. Contemporary horror cliches abound, including an isolated, creepy old house, an unrealistically large stone well, contorting body parts popular since The Ring (2002), and police who seem strangely indifferent despite horrible crimes having been committed.
Also, someone should tell the filmmakers that Catholic nuns can’t hear sacramental confessions. Only a validly ordained priest or bishop can hear confessions and absolve sins.
Though Annabelle: Creation adds nothing new to the genre, its popularity shows this is what horror audiences want to see. It opened at the top of the box office, pulling in approximately $35 million its opening weekend. Anecdotal evidence also attest to the film’s popularity. The theater was packed when I went to see it, in stark contrast to Detroit (a far superior movie).
Annabelle: Creation is overflowing with characters. In addition to Samuel and Esther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto), there are six orphans and a nun (played by Stephanie Sigman). The orphans vary with age, from eight or nine to fifteen or sixteen years old. The youngest, Linda (Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Bateman), have a close bond. Janice had “the Polio” and wears a leg brace. She frees the evil spirit trapped in AnnaBelle and becomes possessed.
The oldest, Nancy (Philippa Coulthard) and Carol (Grace Fulton), have a few scenes but mostly serve to run around being chased by a scarecrow. The middle girls, Tierney and Kate (Lou Lou Safran and Tayler Buck), don’t really play a role in the film and are just kinda “there.” In one departure from a typical horror film, all of the girls and their guardian survive.
Lulu Wilson was also in Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), which just happened to be the last horror movie I saw in theaters. She’s a talented young actress who I hope eventually breaks out of the horror genre.
As part of a prequel, the orphan plot makes little sense. The film is called Annabelle: Creation but the doll’s actual creation is only shown in a brief flashback. As the movie opens, the Mullins are a happy family whose daughter is tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. Flash forward twelve years, and we see the orphans arriving at the home. Why do the movie’s main events take place over a decade later? Why not make the movie about how the doll got possessed, as its name implies?
Finally, why is this movie rated-R? Its handful of gory scenes could have easily been toned down to make it PG-13. This prequel-sequel relies primarily on thrills; it isn’t gratuitously violent, has no nudity, and there isn’t even any swearing in it. Was it necessary to make one or two scenes so over the top the MPAA restricted its main audience (teens) from seeing it? Or were the filmmakers trying to cloak their movie in the allure of an R rating without actually making an R-rated film?
As long as you don’t ask too many questions, Annabelle: Creation delivers all the creepy thrills, scares, and tension an audience desires.