Annabelle is a 2014 American supernatural horror film directed by John R. Leonetti, produced by James Wan, and written by Gary Dauberman. It is a prequel to The Conjuring starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, and Alfre Woodard. The film will be released worldwide on October 3, 2014.
ScareTissue contributors Trapjaw & Chewie got to see an advance screening of the film a few days before the film was released nationwide. This review was written after that evening and has been held until day of release.
SPOILER ALERT: This movie is not in general release at the time of this writing. This review will speak openly about the plot of the movie and will contain mild spoilers. If you do not want to know detailed plot information stop and return after you’ve seen the film.
I was super excited to see this flick ever since it was announced. I was a HUGE fan of The Conjuring and loved the Annabelle scene there. That being said, I’m a realist and with few possible exceptions there aren’t many prequels or sequels that are better than the original so I went in with dulled expectations. Those expectations were met.
Annabelle tells the story of the Gordan family who are expecting their first child. As a pre-baby gift, Ward gives Mia a gift: A doll that apparently Mia has been searching for. This is “Annabelle” though now that I think about it I don’t think it’s ever given that name. The Gordan’s next door neighbors, The Higgins, are brutally murdered by their daughter Annabelle who has joined a cult and flipped her lid. Annabelle and her boyfriend / fellow cult member then come next door and attempt to kill the Gordans. After a struggle, Annabelle slashes her own throat while holding the doll, apparently conjuring a demon which is sent into the doll (or something like that).
This opening scene is intense and REALLY well done. Sadly, it’s pretty much downhill from here. That’s not to say Annabelle isn’t enjoyable because it is… It just never lives up to this first scene. Weird stuff begins happening in the house eventually forcing the Gordan’s to relocate. Naturally, the doll makes the move with them through some extenuating circumstances and continues to haunt the couple and their new born daughter. Things escalate to the point where Mia starts to understand that the doll is indeed haunted / possessed and they turn to local book store owner Evelyn played by Alfre Woodard. She’s been in a ton of stuff but I know her best as Bill Murray’s secretary in Scrooged.
The end comes when Mia faces the demon and is forced to choose between her soul and her daughter’s. I won’t give it away as it’s sort of a twist but suffice to say Trapjaw and I came up with several off-the-top-of-our-heads endings that would have been much more satisfying.
There are some outstanding jump scares here even when you’re watching for them. The plot is pretty thin and it really seems like this is just part of a story as opposed to a self contained film. Looks as if they’re setting up an Amityville remake which would tie this and The Conjuring together as an Ed & Lorraine Warren trilogy.
There were quite a few head scratchers here as well. Not sure why a mother would leave her newborn unattended in an apartment and travel 6 floors down into the basement. Dad is conveniently absent for the majority of the film because he’s “working the night shift”. And I don’t know about you, but when a doll that I threw away suddenly appears in my house again, that thing would be in the wood chipper faster than you can say “Plot hole”.
The best way I can describe Annabelle is this. It feels like one of the many failed Saturday Night Live movies that have turned a funny skit into a feature film (Coneheads, The Ladies Man, A Night At The Roxbury, etc.) The skit is great, but there’s just not enough there to carry a feature. And when you think about it, that’s exactly what Annabelle is. It’s a great scene from The Conjuring that was turned into a feature.
All of that being said, this is an enjoyable film and it’ll make a mint at the box office. There aren’t any huge stars commanding salaries, there’s not a ton of special effects, it’s got the success of The Conjuring as a lead in and there’s nothing else horror wise up against it in the theaters in October. I’d give it a mild recommend for the casual horror fan.
I’m still wondering if the lady behind me at Annabelle has recovered from the viewing last night. She was having the time of her life last night, and she enjoyed every long shot of the demon doll and found it completely satisfying. I didn’t, but it’s not a bad film either: There’s some really good scenes in Annabelle. But, ultimately, there’s just not enough plot to bring the film home for me.
First of all, the film gets off to a slow start. I’m going to put this out there, but I do not feel scared by looking at Annabelle the doll. Yet, the film banks that I will be and that will suffice until something does happen. Fortunately, the film does play on my fear of open doors and my Catholic upbringing. In fact, if you’ve ever seen a horror film before in your life, you will see every cliché in the film. Satanists? Check. Long wide shots daring you to catch the coming action? Check. Exorcist priest? Check. Characters that seem to be both dumb and accepting of the supernatural events? CHECK.
Mia (Annabelle Wallis) does a great job of looking scared and confused throughout the film. The joy and uneasiness of being a first time mother becomes even more terrifying after she is attacked one night by cultists (The film is set in the 1960s and we are given Charles Manson newsreels to remind us of what a dangerous time that was.). After the attack, an evil presence appears and centers on the gift her loving husband (Ward Horton plays John) had just given her: the beloved doll, Annabelle.
After an unfortunate incident (I would almost characterize as Final Destination-ish) with popcorn, the family moves from the home and attempts to ditch the doll that now frightens Mia. However, upon unpacking the last box, Mia discovers Annabelle and accepts her into the house. The force that is attached to the doll takes this as an omen, and we soon start to learn more about the attack and what needs to be done to appease the doll.
Despite the plot being thin, there are some very good individual scenes in Annabelle. I loved the scene where the little girl runs at the door, and I like how the directors tried to reference the film that both catapulted the Warrens into fame and will end this trilogy most likely: The Amityville Horror. A bulk of the shots are very reminiscent to that style and look. Many of the setups were good as well (like the drawings) but were ruined by jokes afterwards.
It was here that Annabelle faltered. It would have been an awful watch had it been all serious, but it never found its proper footing toeing the line like it did here. Hell, the biggest laugh of the night came during the finale (which turns into a confusing mess but I won’t spoil that).
Maybe it was because I fell in love with all the red herrings placed in it, but the ending is quite unsatisfactory to me. Maybe it was because I liked The Conjuring despite its way too happy finale or that I liked Possession: The Amityville Horror 2 because it was way too dark, but this one was neither here nor there. The family togetherness theme has been explored better in Poltergeist, and a very similar concept was explored in the recently released Possession of Michael King. Basically, this film could have gone a thousand different ways and it took the most nonsensical Hollywood ending it could have.
Like I’ve said, there’s some very good stuff here. It’s a perfect film for a casual horror movie viewer. There’s no gore, and the special effects budget is not high. It mainly involved black paint and period clothing. The audience around me was having fun, and Annabelle is very watchable. I just wish there was a little more to it.
You can learn more about Annabelle at the following links. Tell em ScareTissue sent you!
- Official website: annabellemovie.com
- Official Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnnabelleMovie
- Twitter: @wbpictures
Box Office Update – 10.29.2014
As of today, Annabelle has raked in over $200 million at the box office. Love it or hate it, you’ll be seeing more Annabelle in the future. ~ Chewie