Movie #217 2020: Annabelle (2014)

Once more, I am asking myself why? Why am I putting myself through these films? Yet here we are.

Annabelle is another movie in The Conjuring universe, starring the creepy doll first seen in the first movie of the franchise. The aim of this film is to fill in some of the gaps about where the doll came from and how the Warren family came into possession of her. (Pun not intended.) The movie starts when protagonist Mia is gifted the porcelain doll by her husband in anticipation of the arrival of their unborn child. Of course, the couple have no idea that the doll is really a conduit for evil spirits to haunt the living, and all your usual horror shenanigans start to occur.

Annabelle typically gets poor reviews, and I believe there’s one main reason for that: it just doesn’t have the same artistic flair that The Conjuring had. One minor similarity it does have however is that the set dressing & costuming is excellent once again. Set in the past – as its predecessor was – there’s a certain attention to detail paid here that is really impressive.

As we all know, a scary movie is supposed to be, well, scary. Here, there are some moments of decent tension building, for example, there are a series of close up shots involving Mia’s fingers at the sewing machine which really keep you on edge. However, Annabelle brings nowhere near The Conjuring levels of tension. (Sorry about the constant comparison, but movies from the same franchise really should all be equally as good as each other.)

Annabelle Wallis does a decent job at carrying the movie as lead character Mia, but I’m thankful that Alfre Woodard brought her creepy lady gusto to it because I’d have been bored by the characters otherwise. I could literally do without all of the other humans – none of them are compelling or interesting, and – if anything – they should have utilised Woodard’s talent more.

Where the scary aspects of the movie fall short is in one simple aspect: it relies too much on jump scares, and those are quite tame. It’s just not as scary when you can see all these demonic things with the naked eye and the music doesn’t really do much to heighten your sense of fear. Tension builds in darker scenes well, but then spirits are just instantly visible within the next minute or so. As a result, it feels as though there should be way more build-up to make such sequences frightening.

Whilst The Conjuring was quite original in some of its ideas, there’s just nothing new here in Annabelle. What we do get is generic cinematography, a basic modern horror story line, average sound mixing… All in all, it just felt as though very little happened.

I’m glad to hear that Annabelle: Creation and The Conjuring 2 are a step up to be honest, otherwise I might have stopped this franchise viewing as soon as Annabelle’s credits began to roll.

Annabelle is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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