“There are things happening that can’t explain,” said Mia.
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A scene from last year horror box office The Conjuring opens the gruesome story of Annabelle (remember those nurse who gets supernatural disturbance from a demonic-possessed doll? Yes, they are and a voice cameo from Ed Warren). Annabelle flashes back quickly to some months prior to that moment, in which a couple of newlyweds, Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) are expecting their first born. John gives a present to his pregnant wife—an antique porcelain doll that will soon be our ‘antagonist’ doll; just before a havoc involving a satanic sect suffocates their family and everything will never be the same again.
Annabelle should be a meaningful expansion of The Conjuring‘s universe, although this spin-off serves as a prequel (However, you can still hear a reference to Ed and Lorraine Warren in this film). With James Wan as the producer and his favorite DoP, John R. Leonetti as the director, even, the film’s taking benefits from the predecessor as a viral strategy, comparisons between Annabelle and The Conjuring are inevitable.
Directing a spin-off of an acclaimed horror of last year is, obviously, not a simple quest. Director John Leonetti (if Wan is Nolan, then Leonetti is Pfister—who also directs his own movie this year) knows the drill; he knows every composition that makes Wan’s horrors a cult in this heyday—he knows the visual techniques to isolate you, knows where the jump scare moments should be, and knows how to be playful in highlighting some ordinary moments to feel ‘scary.’ Yet, it turns out that Annabelle is not even half as fun and scary as The Conjuring when Leonetti loses Wan’s best quality in presenting the horror—as he loses the heart of the horror.
Technically, Annabelle is a carbon copy of its predecessor with halfpenny jump scares that being too bleak and predictable. To be honest, some moments are original and they have dynamic camera movement that successfully makes me amazed, although I have seen the “moment” coming. However, the worst part of Annabelle is, definitely, the horror-over-substance plot (save the ending). The script from Gary Dauberman fails to convince the audience (or me) that the real menace in this movie is the titular doll; the whole plot is trapped between presenting Wan’s family horror, the demonic-possessed doll, the satanic sect, and the gospel preaching. So, what’s the point of the doll actually?
I personally think that Annabelle is just a funny over-hyped spin-off that benefits from the predecessor. The movie triggers more laughing and nodding-off moments more than the scary moments. Comparison to The Conjuring? Forget it. Even, the other James Wan’s doll movie, Dead Silence, is a better horror with heart.
Horror Directed by: John R. Leonetti Written by: Gary Dauberman Starred by: Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Tony Almendola, Alfre Woodard Running Time: 98 mins