Annabelle was the freaky looking doll from The Conjuring which creeped out enough people to get her own film in 2014. Coming from a James Wan horror film but not being directed by James Wan it was going to be a hard act to follow and John Leonetti, who was Wan’s DoP, took up the challenge and for some it was a disappointment. Whilst not great it wasn’t bad and it its paltry budget of $6.5m went on to earn an enormous $256m at the worldwide box office. A sequel or in the case of Annablle 2 : Creation, a prequel, was inevitable.
This time however its David F Sandberg who helms the film. No bad thing when you consider his horror hit from last year, ‘Lights Out’, based on his short film also cost next to nothing but made $148m. Sandberg showed a total mastery of creating creepy moments from everyday fears and here we go right back to the creation of the doll to find out just how she got like that.
Set in the earlier part of the 20th century we’re introduced to the Mullins family where the father (Anthony LaPagglia) makes dolls though frankly looking at them the toys look like satanic abominations but his little girl loves them until she is tragically killed in an arm rest gripping car accident. Devastated the film picks up some years later where the grieving parents have turned their home into an orphanage. With the mother bed bound it leaves the father to look after the house which is opened up to a group of girls and a nun, yes its already sounding slightly pervy. Sandberg with a bigger budget takes us round the house in an ambitious single steadicam shot laying down the grounds for what you know is to follow. So we have the child with polio in leg splints who can’t join in with the others, a dodgy electric stair chair and the girls themselves who are paired up in such as way as to make them victims in waiting.
Much like Lights Out the second act of the film is there to scare as Annabelle is discovered locked away looking even more annoyed than you remember her. However unlike the first film where she stayed stationary throughout Annabelle here does move albeit under a sheet when we see her for the first time. It’s just as effective here though and Sandberg taps into all our fears whether it be the darkness , something under the bed or the eerie stillness of mannequins and if Annabelle’s not creepy enough we get the scary scarecrow which from the moment you see it you know it’s being set up for something later in the film.
The film endeavours to hint at what is to inevitably to follow subtly incorporating inverted crucifixes in the set design (check the glass in those fronts doors!) but many of the inevitable set pieces are well done but not as effective as those which Sandberg gave us in ‘Lights Out’ and the film pushes aside its story for these not always effective scares when actually you really want to know how the doll has come became the way she is.
It’s other problem is that its central human character, the little girl with polio, who is intended as the one to draw sympathy quickly loss any we might feel for her as the film heads towards its climax which gives you no one to root for when awful Annabelle goes ape. If you’re able to remember the end of the first film then this does lead satisfactorily into it but quite where an inevitable 3rd film will go is anyone’s guess but though this is competently made it’s a little disappointing for a director whose debut was better.
Here’s the trailer (which gives away faaaaaaar too much)…….