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New Review: Annabelle (2014)
Director: John R. Leonetti
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola, Eric Ladin, Brian Howe, Kerry O'Malley, Tree O' Toole
The cinematography in Annabelle is really good, and it's important to go ahead and mention that, because there's hardly anything else to say in the movie's favor. Filmed mostly in elegant, wide-screen long takes, the movie is almost always a pleasure to look at, and the music by Joseph Bishara (who also worked on The Conjuring) has a couple of effectively eerie tunes. This is what a horror movie about an evil supernatural entity is supposed to look like. It's just a shame that no thought went into the script.
The movie opens with the same three nurses from The Conjuring's opening, telling Loraine and Ed Warren their story about the Annabelle doll that's been the cause of so much trouble for them. One of the nurses says the doll was a gift to her from her mother. How did the nurse's mother get a hold of such an evil doll? Annabelle spends the next 98 minutes telling us how.
The movie cuts back "one year earlier," introducing us to a young couple named John (Ward Horton) and Mia Gordon (Annabelle (!) Wallis). Mia is pregnant with their first child, and as a gift for his wife, John buys her a rare vintage Annabelle doll, which she places in the nursery on a shelf next to the child's crib. One night, the Satan worshipping daughter of the nice Christian family next door shows up with her boyfriend. The young woman kills her parents, and soon after, she and her boyfriend set their sights on the Gordons.
Luckily, the cops show up in time to put an end to their reign of terror, but as the woman dies, drops of her blood seeps into the Annabelle doll's eye socket, and that's how the thing becomes so evil. Mia asks John to throw the doll away, which is exactly what should be done with such a creepy looking toy. But when Mia and John move to a new apartment, they find the doll in the bottom of one of their boxes, and Mia (in what can only be described as a moment of temporary insanity) decides to keep the bloody thing.
Of course, lots of supernatural shenanigans occur soon after, and they involve lots of screaming and banging sounds coming from the Gordon's apartment. Apparently, this is an everyday occurrence at that apartment complex, because no matter how loud things get, the neighbors never once call the police or come over and check on them. Correction: there is one neighbor who shows up on occasion. She's Evelyn (Alfre Woodard), a bookstore owner who believes Mia's stories of supernatural woe. This leads to a priceless exchange inside Evelyn's bookstore:
Mia: "I believe a ghost is haunting my family."
Evelyn: "Oh, then you want to go to aisle four."
The movie is directed by John R. Leonetti (who did the cinematography for The Conjuring), and to be fair, he's improved his filmmaking skills exponentially since making his directorial debut with the atrocious Mortal Kombat: Annihilation 17 years ago. There are segments in Annabelle that are well made. The best scene comes when Mia finds herself trapped inside a malfunctioning elevator as she tries fleeing from a demonic entity. The camera work is exquisite, and the dread-filled atmosphere is strong. This is a good scene.
What he still seems to have trouble with is getting good performances from his cast. Wallis tries hard to inject some humanity into her character, but more often than not, her performance comes across as forced. Horton acts like he just wondered in from a Leave it to Beaver episode, and Woodard is completely wasted as the Token Black character in the movie. The worst performance is easily turned in by Tony Amendola, who plays the kindhearted Father Perez, and is given some of the most groan-inducing lines in the movie (such as his final scene with the Gordons outside of the church).
Perhaps the most unforgivable crime committed by Annabelle isn't that it rips off better horror movies (which it does), but that it frequently puts a newborn baby in peril for cheap thrills. There's a moment where Mia finds disturbing drawings made by two kids (who are never seen or heard from again after their one scene) showing Mia's daughter in her carriage as it rolls in front of a truck. Later, the carriage does indeed roll in front of an oncoming truck, and at first, we believe the child is killed in the incident. Then, the next shot shows Mia holding the baby close to her chest. This scene exists just to get an emotional response from the audience. It's manipulative and shameful.
As I was driving home from the theater, I started thinking about the scenes involving the Annabelle doll in The Conjuring. That movie told us nothing about it, and was all the better for it. It was frightening not only because it was ugly as sin (and seriously, I can't imagine anyone keeping a doll like that in their house), but also because it had an air of mystery about it. That Annabelle spends its entire running offering up such a lame explanation for the doll's origins does nothing but take away the very thing that made the doll so frightening in the first place. If you want a creepy movie involving a demonic looking doll, then you don't need to go to the theaters for that. Child's Play is available to rent on Netflix. Heck, so is The Conjuring.
Rated R for violence (including a suicide) and disturbing images
Final Grade: * ½ (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
Other thoughts on Annabelle (2014)! :D
- Combustible Celluloid Review - Annabelle (2014), Gary Dauberman , John R. Leonetti, Annabelle Wallis
- Annabelle Review | Movie Reviews and News | EW.com
- Annabelle - Film Calendar - The Austin Chronicle
The doll from hell is back.
- Dustin Putman's Review: Annabelle (2014)
Annabelle (2014) - 3/4 Stars - 'Annabelle' not only withholds the dignity of 'The Conjuring,' but actually surpasses that film's fiendish parade of frights.