review by rebecca Wynne-walsh
First things first, it’s important to establish that I love horror films and am a particular fan of James Wan’s two Conjuring films. As such I did not walk in to Annabelle: Creation with an overly cynical mind-set nor the intention to dislike. I wanted to be both terrified and thrilled. However, while I didn’t relax to comfortably into my seat, I was hardly on the edge of it either.
While Annabelle: Creation is thankfully far better than it’s predecessor, Annabelle, it does not, as so many of the posters suggest, “fit perfectly into the Conjuring universe”. It is far from the same standard as The Conjuring 1 or 2. This is film is one that rests so comfortably on it’s laurels that it falls into the realm of complete predictability, not exactly the best place for a horror film. Director David F. Sandberg’s film chooses jump scares over suspense and stereotypes over characters. The success of the franchise it is a part of allows for Annabelle: Creation to reject creativity in favour of familiarity. The film makes several nods to the others in the franchise, the iconic nun from The Conjuring 2 makes a brief appearance, the families from the first Annabelle film are introduced and of course, the eponymous doll that first graced the screen four years ago in The Conjuring, now fills almost every moment of the franchise’s latest instalment. This leaves Sandberg's film feeling more like a post-credits Easter Egg than a film in its own right.
One of the biggest problems with Annabelle: Creation is the demonic doll herself. In one shot the doll would be looking one direction and in the next another, this movement would, without fail, inspire blood-curdling screams from the film’s child-protagonists. These "scares" are difficult to engage with to say the least. The filmmakers were intelligent enough to recognise how ridiculous a doll would look floating around and attacking people, unfortunately, this leaves them with precious little else to work with in a film that centres on that very doll.
The body-horror sequences are effective but under-used. In contrast, if there is one thing that this film relies too heavily on it is CGI effects. If there is anything that the history of horror cinema has taught us, it is that the less of the demon we see, the scarier that demon is. Any unveiling should be reserved for brief glimpses and panic-fuelled flashes amidst an adrenaline fuelled climax. Annabelle: Creation chooses instead to show us the demon and the ghost and the creepy doll repeatedly throughout the film. it is a poor move from a horror film to familiarise its audience so much with the very tools it tries to scare it with. The scariest sequence in the film sees a white sheet rise, appearing to have an evil being underneath it, walking towards the child protagonist. Right at the last minute the sheet collapses. The tension created in this simplest of scenes was lost in the scenes of demon fights and evil black smoke.
Another problem with Annabelle: Creation is that instead of telling one great story, it tried to tell two semi-good stories. In this case two halves certainly did not make a whole. The first plotline featured a married couple that had lost their daughter, the second follows that couple 12 years on, as they turn their family home into an orphanage. The film loses any integrity of story by trying to simultaneously act as both prequel and sequel to itself.
There are some good scares in Annabelle: Creation but instead of following a good story that features scares, a la The Conjuring, this latest instalment asks its audience to look to the story only as a lose string with which a series of scares is held together. With this predictability this film fails in it’s ultimate goal. This is a horror that scares at times but never truly horrifies. I was able to sleep with the lights off and everything!