Sunday, August 20, 2017

Annabelle: Creation

Dollmaker Samuel Mullens, his wife Esther, and their daught Annabelle or Bee are a happy family up until Bee is tragically run over in the street near their house. Twelves years later, Samuel and Esther generously agree to house six orphan girls and their guardian Sister Charlotte. At first, the girls are pleased with the huge house and its accommodations, but weird things keep happening at night like doors opening and closing and a doll mysteriously appearing randomly. Linda and Janice are the outcasts of the house and prove to be most vulnerable to this supernatural threat.

I hated the first Annabelle movie and I expected almost anything could improve upon it. The prequel/sequel Annabelle: Creation is a better film, but leaves me cold and wanting more like The Conjuring universe does. I was on board at the beginning of the film. The Mullens are an adorable family suddenly struck with tragedy. The orphans are mostly sympathetic. Janice had polio and walks with difficulty, proving to be a source of ridicule for the other girls except her best friend Linda. The other girls are varying degrees of cruel, keeping both Janice and Linda as outsiders to their clique. The girls' acting was all on point, especially Lulu Wilson. I wish some of the other girls were more than just jumpscare fodder, but one of the older girls, Nancy, changes her mean girl ways after being scared by the entity.

The film has a lot of sources of horror, much more than just the creepy doll. There's also the reclusive wife with the doll-like mask who ominously rings a bell, a scarecrow, a literal demon, and a possessed girl (Janice). Each of these could have featured in their own movie. Here, they are muddled and keep the plot unfocused. Considering the title, it felt like the doll didn't figure highly with all of these other things. The demon is the main antagonist and inhabits the doll. This doesn't seem to matter too much when we see its physical form multiple times, tormenting the inhabitants of the house.

The director of this film also directed Lights Out. Not surprisingly, both films have similar problems. The rules aren't well established and only matter when its convenient for the plot. For instance, Janice is being tormented by the demon while it's making huge amounts of noise, opening and closing doors and throwing her to the ground. No one wakes up. This ability to mute sounds doesn't hold true for the whole movie. The demon has shown that the laws of physics don't matter to it, but then it turns around and struggles with doors being held closed and chasing people around. This problem makes it clear that the filmmakers aren't interested in making a cohesive, well built story. They just want a bunch of cool images and scares.

The scares throughout the movie are mostly jumpscares. I find these to be the cheapest type because they require no buildup and rely on involuntary physical reactions to being startled. Some scares were decent with actual suspense like the scene with the pop gun and the scene in the barn with the scarecrow where it's destroying the lights. Most of them were cheap and weren't memorable. I did like the many moments of silence that slow the pace of the movie and allow some space between the scares.

 Although this is an improvement to the terrible Annabelle movie, Annabelle: Creation still not great. While most of the characters are well drawn, the plot is muddled with too many villains, jump scares, and the lack of established rules. Even the concept that this loving couple would want children in the house with a known demon is shaky at best. The only positives of the film are the performances, the one moment of gore, and the look of the film. I guess I should resign myself to watching these mediocre movies since The Conjuring universe shows no signs of stopping.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

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