Annabelle – 3 out of 5
I’ve been watching horror films for so long that I’ve become jaded to the genre. Rarely can I find anything that raises my blood pressure or even remotely creeps me out. I’ve seen the same shit done over and over again and seen so many of these films that copy each other and are so cookie-cutter and practically a fill-in-the-blanks with the nearest cliché affair that so many of them come off like an act of tedium to watch. However, I’m not so jaded that I hate all the films before I see them because there are some that surprise me. In 2013, a little film shocked me and that film was called The Conjuring. Since it was “based on a true story,” I had expectations of it being cheesy since my experience with most supernatural horror films that claim to be based on true events were more laughable than scary—but that has to do with the fact I just don’t believe in any of that stuff. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the movie. In the film, the opening centers on a creepy doll named Annabelle that famed paranormal investigators lock away so it can’t do its evil dolly things on the unsuspecting world. This film tells the backstory and history of Annabelle and how she became the container for pure evil.
|No, she's not the container of pure evil. That's a baby in her...but then again...|
Young married couple Mia (Annabelle “I’m not the evil doll” Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) are expecting their first born pretty soon. To celebrate their approaching family unit, John buys Mia a doll for her creepy as shit doll collection. For reasons the film never goes into, Mia reacts with gratitude and joy over seeing this…
|Show your wife how much you hate her by buying this!|
…and never once recoils in horror and immediately burns the doll and everything it touched to the ground. One night, one probably spent not understanding why someone would own a doll so horrifying, a duo of Satanic cultists kill their neighbors and turn their wicked, murder-lust-filled eyes on Mia and John. Thankfully, the police arrive just in time and kill the cultists…but not before one bleeds into the Annabelle doll and infects it with pure evil. Now demons haunt Mia and are seeking the soul of her newborn child. Their priest, Father Perez (Tony Amendola), tries to help but it is discovered that the only way to rid themselves of the evil is to give the demon what it wants; a soul. And if it can’t have the baby’s, it will gladly take Mia’s.
|"Your soul, your kid's soul...whateves, I'm easy."|
My expectations for Annabelle were really, really, really low. While dolls are all kinds of creepy and I would totally shit my pants if one of my girlfriend’s dolls from her macabre collection went from sitting on the bookshelf to sitting in the hall outside our bathroom but horror movies about killer dolls usually make me laugh rather than sit uncomfortably in a cloud of spook. Add to the fact that the cinematographer from Child’s Play 3 is the director of this one and my ability to take Annabelle seriously was nowhere to be seen.
|"We have no worries. God is on our side. I mean, he could have stopped this possession|
of the doll from happening but I'm sure he'll do something to help us..."
However, the actual product for this one kinda surprised me.
|Quick detour...that pale balding man on the left hand side of the picture|
is clearly an animated cartoon man come to life.
I’m not going to say that Annabelle is some kind of genius horror film that redefines the genre or taught me how to feel fear again because it was far from that. The characters are pretty lackluster and one-dimensional, and the acting is slightly better than passable. However, the film did provide some genuine scares and that doll is just creepy as fuck.
|Also creepy...the actual demon hanging out on the ceiling like he's Spider-Man|
or a dancing Lionel Ritchie.
Annabelle is a film that never really sat idle with its scares and never settled for just a collection of jump scares. While jump scares are more prevalent in this film than straight-up, soul-freezing psychological terror, the jump scares were crafted to be more than the lame “cat in a closet” thing or having the killer just come jumping out at you. Granted, a couple of scenes are just the demon jumping at the camera but the build up worked far more effectively than most horror films do and they were rarely built up with the use of music and were, more often than not, built up using atmosphere and great use of sound editing. Additionally, many jump scares are built up by showcasing some truly unsettling and frightening shit…and it makes the jump scare in an already scary scene the icing on the freaky cake.
|Hmmm...yeah, that's creepy but it's not really that scar--|
|Nope! Fuck that! Fuck everything about that!|
Finally, unlike a lot of modern horror films, as well, Annabelle likes to utilize its background space for spookiness. I was also slightly taken back at how well the film used light and dark and were capable of making things scary in both the light of day and the dark of night. It’s not often you find a horror film that can make decent scary happenings around lunch time. So, needless to say, I was expecting some really generic horror stuff with Annabelle but was pretty surprised to find a film that had some excellently crafted scares that weren’t phoned in. Of course, it does help to make things easier when your antagonist is a creepy as all living hell doll.
|Seriously, just start stomping on that doll and never stop.|
As far as the story is concerned, it works for what it is. There’s a lot of typical demon tropes that are not unfamiliar with the genre of horror and the film plays with the clichés of seeing the young, family growing white people being tormented (and the woman being the focus of most of it) and they are met by the kindly black woman who seems to have some sort of understanding of this darkness somehow but even with this usual formula, the story didn’t feel like an overly tired rehash gathered from the clutter found at the horror film slaughterhouse (that place exists, I swear).
|"I said I wasn't going to get involved but this white girl is going to get herself killed|
by a demon."
Annabelle isn’t an amazing horror film but it wasn’t a complete waste either. Sure, Annabelle Wallis is pretty forgettable in her role and the story isn’t breaking new ground and will, most likely, not sprout a spin-off franchise from The Conjuring like the studio and the director hopes (the director actually wants to have a crossover with Chucky and see Annabelle and Chucky team up…and that could either be epically stupid or epically stupid yet fun) but the film is pretty spooky and the doll is all kinds of creepy. The decent scares the film produces makes this otherwise generic affair watchable and somewhat decent.
|Fun Note: The real Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann doll...like that one in the background.|