Friday, 20 March 2015

Annabelle

Cheap thrills with a largely forgettable story seems to be the order of the day when it comes to budget horror films, leaving the audience with just enough to come back for another visit once the inevitable sequel/prequel is announced. Annabelle is no exception to this as it serves as a back-story to the largely successful 2013 film The Conjuring that follows the supposedly factual exploits of now famous ghost hunters Ed and Lorrain Warren. After grossing in over £300 million worldwide, a continuation of this world became inevitable, as the doll from the first movie is now the star attraction in this paint by the numbers horror film. 


Directed by The Conjuring cinematographer John R. Leonetti and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD is Annabelle, a horror that has significant throwbacks to other familiar horror films, significantly Rosemary’s Baby, even using the same names for the young couple as in this old classic. Thrown into the mix is a Charles Manson-esque cult that invades the home of Mia and John, violently attacking the couple, leaving the doll Annabelle, a gift from Mia’s husband, possessed and seeking the soul of Mia’s unborn child. 


While the real life inspiration for the film is a regular raggedy Ann, the movie version of Annabelle is a large Victorian pot doll. With large haunting eyes and an unsettling smile the production team certainly succeeded in creating a doll that is not only creepy but also, while almost always still, manages to evoke an eerie reality that serves well, particularly for the first half of the film. Unfortunately after this, Annabelle falls into the familiar traps of many other horror films before it, becoming heavily reliant on CGI and cheap jump scares in order to keep the plot moving forward. I can’t help but feel the film would be better served building the suspense through what the audience is unable to see, rather that throwing in demons and other supernatural elements just for the sake of becoming another serviceable horror movie.

After the attack in their home, Mia begins to feel tormented, initially through modest means, such as a rocking chair moving independently and her sewing machine switching itself on. As events continue to escalate, the family moves from Santa Monica to Pasadena. Along for the ride, despite having been thrown in the dustbin, is Annabelle. Feeling increasingly terrified and isolated, the family call for assistance from their local priest; Father Perez, who they hope can vanquish the evil that has bestowed them. A generic storyline indeed, but it is not without its share of relatively scary moments. In one particular scene, Mia sees Annabelle as a 4-year-old girl but as she bursts through the door into the room she transforms into the adult Annabelle. There are several more nice set pieces thrown into the film, generally, however, there is nothing more than an already tried and tested formula we have seen in countless other horror films.


Unfortunately the flimsy script allows the film to fizzle to an ending rather than build to anything climatic. Much of what was built on in the first half of the film is lost to one jump scare after another with no real interesting dialogue or explanation as to what is actually happening. Despite the best efforts by Annabelle Wallis who plays the role of Mia, the film almost rushes to its predictable ending and its inevitable sequel, The Conjuring 2. What we are left with is a film that does its job, borrowing many ideas from better films for the occasional scare, but doesn’t set itself apart enough to become anything other than another forgettable horror movie. All in all, a disappointing prequel to a formula that worked so well in The Conjuring.

Annabelle disappoints and gets a 2/5.

★★☆☆☆

Gareth Thompson


Annabelle at CeX


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