Annabelle – Film Review
Here, have another.
Side note: I was tempted to give Annabelle 2 stars, but ain’t nobody tarnishes my Vera’s legacy. If it hadn’t been a spin-off of The Conjuring, it would have been better, baby.
TL;DR Annabelle isn’t scary. Annabelle isn’t original. And Annabelle’s story sucks. Rather than offering even a tiny taste of The Conjuring, Annabelle is simply a reminder that wherever a good horror movie goes, a terrible sequel or spin-off is only a cash grab away. 1 out of 5 stars.
And $250+ million says that more are on the way.
So Annabelle is a prequel spin-off to The Conjuring, based on the Annabelle doll that is mildly present in the parent film. This time, we see how the doll came to be evil by following Mia and John, a boring, white couple. Mia is a doll collector, and pregnant, so John buys her the doll for the baby’s nursery. Unfortunately, a couple of escaped Manson Family cultists rain on Mia and John’s domestic bliss, and one of them, Annabelle, commits suicide to avoid the police and bleeds her soul into the doll. Mia and John move after supernatural stuff starts happening, but the doll comes with them, and she’s on a mission to steal a soul alla Child’s Play to summon a demon or something. Mia incorrectly deduces that Annabelle wants the baby’s soul, and almost sacrifices herself. John stops her in time because babies aren’t able to offer their souls, and the plan was to have Mia’s all along. Just when it looks like a difficult decision needs to be maid, Mia’s black neighbour sacrifices herself, instead, and Annabelle vanishes.
No word on that summoned demon, though.
I watched Annabelle and Ouija in a double feature of drudgery, and Annabelle comes out as the better of the two.
They’re both still 1 star-worthy abominations, though. Don’t get me wrong about that.
Annabelle just comes out on top because it has a couple of good moments that show the filmmakers almost had a grip on what they were doing.
Shame about the story, then.
Why I hate this movie:
The story is fucking boring and takes forever to go anywhere. Things get minorly exciting near the end once the demon’s summoning criteria become apparent. But before that, Annabelle is just another jump scare-heavy, chore of a movie.
Despite spending most of the runtime with her, we learn very little about Mia apart from “she’s blonde and pretty” and “she collects ugly dolls.” She and John are the most blank slate horror leads ever.
Also in the “no character development” camp is Black Neighbour, played by the deserves-better-than-this Alfre Woodard. She has a couple of interactions with Mia wherein we learn her own daughter died in a car accident and that made Alfre super sad. I was kind of hoping Alfre would be in on the whole cult thing, but then she comes out of nowhere in the climax to kill herself for Mia’s sake. What the fuck? You guys had coffee, like, once.
Of course, the real reason Annabelle needs to be criticised is because it has earned its living off the back of The Conjuring. I quite liked The Conjuring, you know. And Annabelle is not The fucking Conjuring.
Mia’s actress’ name is Annabelle. It’s like, are you fucking kidding?
I’m not sure whether to describe the parallels to Child’s Play as “homage,” “borrow,” or “straight-up rip-off.” Annabelle is a hideous doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer; Chucky is a hideous doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer. Annabelle needs a soul to be offered, not stolen; Chucky needs a soul to be offered, not stolen. Come on.
They diverge in that Annabelle wants to summon a demon, whereas Chucky wanted a new body for himself. And Annabelle is actually after the mum, whereas Chucky was after the kid. But it’s still insulting that this evil doll movie happens to be so similar to the other most famous evil doll movie.
In another rip-off-disguised-as-homage, Annabelle has a scene where stovetop popcorn gets out of control. Scream is one of my Sacred Three, so I appreciate this theft even less than usual.
While trying to escape the ensuing housefire, Mia falls over and then decides to feebly crawl away, rather than fucking stand up. I know you’re a horror movie character (and pregnant), but think about it, baby.
Mia and John aren’t that fazed by the fact that a doll John threw in the bin somehow ended up in their moving boxes.
I never figured out whether the possessed doll was telekinetic, or whether Annabelle was able to project her ghost, and that’s what was moving objects. It bothered me.
In any case, the movie shows us the ghost too much.
Mia’s fucking martyrdom is off the charts. After the original attack by the cultists, she makes John promise that he will preference the baby’s safety over her own if he has to. Then in the climax, Mia is willing to bloody kill herself without a second thought when she thinks the baby is in danger. Maybe try getting help first or something? Alfre is just outside. Bonus demerit points when Alfre does turn out to be the solution (not that I support the stupidity and convenience of that solution).
Oh, and in what is supposed to be a cute nod to The Conjuring, Annabelle actually slaps us hard across the testicles by having the priest suggest that calling the Warrens might be a good idea, but that they’re currently unavailable. Thanks for the tease, bitch.
But it’s not all bad:
The movie is technically competent. Yeah, the lead actors are nobodies, but the look of the movie doesn’t feel super budget. It’s all very theatrical and classic horror (no shaky cam, thank God). A much, much better script could have given this the boost it needed.
Alfre brings as much class as she can in her limited role. She also serves as a great red herring, being the book shop-owning, occult-knowing, suicide attempt-surviving only friend of the increasingly isolated Mia. Despite her bizarre sacrifice in the finale, I was kind of happy that she didn’t end up being evil. I felt pretty smug in my picking of her, and I’m happy that I was wrong. Annabelle got me. Even if just a little bit.
There’s a pretty decent fake-out when the priest is distractedly driving while he has Annabelle in his back seat. He pays so little attention to the road that I don’t think Annabelle would have even had to bother messing with his radio. Surprisingly, he doesn’t crash his car: Annabelle just magically yanks him down his church steps and cracks his head open. Even more surprisingly for a priest in a horror movie, he survives.
There’s a scene where Mia sees what appears to be Annabelle levitating, and I was like “Oh, yeah. Here we go with showing the doll moving around. Just to dispel any spook factor remaining.” But then the shot reveals the demon holding her up, and it reminded me positively of the red demon behind Patrick Wilson scare from the first Insidious.
Oh, and the home invasion by the cultists at the beginning is tense. Mia gets stabbed while pregnant, so that’s horrifying. Touché.
It’s a 2 star movie, but a 1 star spin-off. Sorry ’bout it. 1 out of 5 stars.