Review: Cast Lulu Wilson in a prequel to critically lambasted horror film and you might get a decent horror. That statement might sound silly, but if you look closely, there’s something virtuous to deduce that a ‘bad horror’ isn’t the end. Annabelle: Creation, an origin story to John Leonetti’s Conjuring spin-off, Annabelle (2014), along with Ouija: Origin of Evil—also casting Wilson, has proven that horror franchise might still have a second chance if done properly.
Creation goes further before the titular demonic doll came into The Warrens’ possession, even further before the haunting of The Forms. The title itself has pre-explained what this horror is about: the genesis on how a ‘seemingly lovable’ child-friendly (which I myself doubt) doll turns into an evil carrier. Question is: would knowing how things will turn out make this film scary-less or, say, obsolete?
Fortunately, that’s not the case with Creation. Director David F. Sandberg converts the budget and turns the ready-made material into a horror spectacle which works best for those who are eager to earnestly get scared. Despite the final look, which resembles James Wan’s style, Sandberg manages to carefully build tension, play out numbers of Chekov’s guns and cleverly stage jump-scares (including ones that make indirect homage to his previous Lights Out) into making effective terrors.
Instead of establishing a full-frontal connection to Conjuring Universe, Creation takes its time to delve into the story, distracting audiences from the ‘story we supposed to know eventually.’ Chekov’s guns are neatly placed and confidently stated that they are not some random object. From highly mechanized stair-lift, fancy dollhouse, or the scarecrow in the barn, all those things are staged as if audiences know their horrifying functions in the end and are eager to accept it.
Once the horror mode is unleashed, Sandberg plays up the tempo, giving us the illusions of a non-stop horrorfest while inducing some melodrama inside. As in Annabelle, the drama crafted by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle, doesn’t quite work and is borderline careless. Lucky enough, Sandberg’s clever direction could direct the film away from banality and deliver it into a sinister dollhouse (mind the scarecrow, which might be treated as a future project; and the hand puppets).
Into making the spectacle, Creation is also fueled with vigorous performance by the child actors, especially Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wison. Both girls are portrayed as an exact opposite but they go along together. Bateman represents the repressed, haunted victim; while Wilson injects some energy and positivity to the story. Both performances reflect what Annabelle: Creation tries to craft: horror spectacle, which scares and entertains at the same time.
Annabelle: Creation (2017)