I love watching scary movies in the theater. There’s something about sitting in the dark, surrounded by other horror fans, that can make even the worst movie an entertaining experience.
Annabelle isn’t the worst movie. Unfortunately, it’s also not the best.
Annabelle, 2014. Dir. John R. Leonetti, Written by Gary Dauberman. Starring Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard.
An attempt to capitalize on the success of last year’s The Conjuring (a movie I did enjoy), Annabelle is a prequel of sorts about the possessed doll that The Conjuring features. It’s another “based on true events” story and covers a lot of the same themes: family, possession, demons. It all once again boils down to the battle for the mother’s soul.
I honestly wasn’t super excited about this one, the trailers and promos made this look like The Conjuring lite. I do like the idea of spin off’s about the other stories related to the Warren’s. I think it just would have been nice if this one felt like it fit more in that cinematic universe (ugh, I’m sorry, I just said cinematic universe. I feel gross). Instead it feels more like a knock-off than a spin-off.
Annabelle does get a few things right though. For one, it passes the Bechdel test! How refreshing is that? It meets the requirements in that 1) there are two female characters Mia and Evelyn that 2) talk frequently 3) about something other than a man. About a lot of things other than men actually. They talk about the haunting and the demon of course. They also talk about motherhood, loss, their fears. I mean, whoa, we have two pretty fleshed out characters here. I appreciate that.
In terms of the horror genre, the scares for the most part are fairly standard and predictable. However there is one great sequence when Mia goes to their building’s basement during a thunderstorm. It was by far the scariest, most effective scene in the whole movie.
The movie just feels small. Which can certainly be used to a horror film’s advantage. A lack of secondary characters, even background actors, can create a feeling of isolation. Staging a film almost entirely in one apartment location can build a sense of claustrophobia. Those elements in turn can be used to amp up the dread.
Annabelle tries to get us there, a few times it almost succeeds. Unfortunately, it loses itself in repetitiveness and a lack of creativity. I’ve seen a lot of this before. Rosemary’s Baby does it better. So does The Omen. Not to mention, again, The Conjuring. Solid performances by the small cast and a couple of great scenes aren’t quite enough to elevate this movie from passable to exceptional. It’s worth checking out for fans of The Conjuring and other similar haunting movies. Just don’t expect anything ground breaking. The Conjuring literally gave me nightmares. Annabelle just threatened to put me to sleep.