06th Dec2017

‘Annabelle: Creation’ Blu-ray Review

by Nik Holman

Stars: Stephanie Signman, Miranda Otto, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, Lulu Wilson, Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard, Tayler Buck | Written by Gary Dauberman | Directed by David F. Sandberg

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Annabelle: Creation begins on an isolated patch of California somewhere in the 1950’s. The beginning shots walk us through a doll makers’ trade. Unsettling close-ups of paint cracked faces, some with dead eyes, some with no eyes at all. Wooden arms and legs dangle in and out of focus as the masters’ hand fits the pieces together. By the end, we’re introduced to Annabelle, the most hideous doll ever hand crafted. You’ve probably seen this opening creation scene play out before. Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play 2; it’s horror movie standard.

Quickly we’re introduced to the Mullins family. Samuel Mullins is a loving husband and father who makes a comfortable living with his dolls. His dolls are so popular, in fact, he’s stopped outside of Sunday morning mass and asked if his next shipment is ready. The man has a gift. Unfortunately, he’s better at woodcarving than tire maintenance. On the way back home, the truck has a flat. As he’s changing the tire, a lug nut rolls onto the almost deserted road. Little Bee Mullins runs out to grab it and is killed by a speeding vehicle. These few minutes with the Mullins are important. We’re given a peek into their lives; the hide-and-seek game they play with Bee, the love they have for each other, their involvement with the community. This isn’t just to pad the film, (At 109 minutes, it has a relatively short run time given today’s standards) but when the main plot kicks in, there is no rest. Once Annabelle: Creation gets started, it does not stop until the very, very end.

Twelve years later, a small group of orphan girls, accompanied by their caretaker/teacher/nun Sister Charlotte, are about to take up residence at the Mullins home. After so long grieving for their lost daughter, they want to give something back to the world. Giving a home to these homeless orphans (the cause is never explained) seems like a good idea but only if you didn’t know there was a demon-possessed doll locked away in the upstairs closet. If you did happen to know there was a demon-possessed doll locked away in the upstairs closet, like the Mullins know, this may seem like a very stupid idea to the rest of us. You know how this plays out; a girl is tempted to release the monster, she does release the monster, and hilarity ensues.

The script is not going to take home an Academy Award. It’s fairly paint-by-numbers horror, but the movie delivers where it counts. It’s incredibly frightening.

Director David F. Sandberg became an internet darling after his Lights Out short film caught like fire across Youtube and social media. He has since created many terrifying and superb horror shorts under the moniker Ponysmasher. Sandberg clearly knows how to make the scares in his short horror and Annabelle: Creation is proof that the man isn’t intimidated by a bigger budget and longer run time either. What Sandberg does so well is keep the horror at a distance. It’s the unknown we’re afraid of, not merely some demon. Scares abound but you’re never sure what scared you. He has the viewer constantly looking over the characters shoulder for any hint of activity. Did something move behind that door? Did I see a certain goth nun in that picture? You might want to look away because something crazy is about to leap out, but you can’t because you know you’ll miss a great little detail.

And if you’re a fan of Sandberg’s other works, details abound. From Attic Panic to Not So Fast, I had a blast spotting all the references to his online short films. Who can say if he was merely recycling good ideas or providing some fan service? Whatever his reason, I enjoyed the nod.

The acting is solid. Given that over half the cast are children, or children-ish, one might expect the acting to be weak in spots, but I found the younger actresses to be the foundation of the film. There are no dumb-girl, slutty-girl, smart-girl clichés. Each character felt like a real person with both good and bad sides. Some of the adults, however, could have brought a little more punch to their roles. Speaking of grown-ups. At times, the script forgets there are three grown-ups living in the same house with these terrorized children. Especially when we learn that the Mullins are aware of what is happening (big surprise), you have to ask yourself why Mr. Mullins never believed the kids’ frantic stories. And when these kids are being dragged up and down the hallways at 2 a.m., where is everybody? Sometimes I felt the movie had to play dumb simply because the script told it to.

Sandberg also relies on an overabundance of jump scares, which is painful to say given that a vast majority of this film has genuinely good scares. What I found more offensive than the jump scares themselves are that the scares are so obviously telegraphed. You can tell by the framing that something is about to leap out, and when it does, along with that loud music queue, you feel more manipulated than thrilled.

From a spinoff that nobody asked for, to a prequel that seemed totally pointless, Annabelle: Creation is a better movie than it has a right to be. I did not have any faith in this film and I was proved wrong. Sandberg delivered a solid flick that I won’t mind watching again. He gave me over an hour and a half of jumps, screams, and hiding behind my hands. I can’t ask for better horror than that.

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