Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard
Director: John R Leonetti
John Leonetti's Annabelle is one of those films you keep on top of your weekend must-watch list, thinking you'd need a full Sunday to recover from the horror fest, only to leave the theatre wondering whatever happened to those jitters. In short, this prequel is not even half as scary as The Conjuring.
One of last year's creepiest films, The Conjuring had a lot more to love than hate. None of that in this fresh offering. At best, Annabelle will get a generous dose of scorn and ridicule even from the easily frightened tribe of horror fans.
You know how sometimes all you want to do is buy a ticket, get a generous serving of chocolate popcorn, and be on your way. But at James Wan movies, we’ve come to expect more. And as much as we’d love to see him spearhead his brand of horror cinema, we simply cannot count Annabelle as one of his horror masterpieces. After all, he’s the same guy who gave us Saw, Insidious, Dead Silence, among others.
Back to his latest Annabelle: So, you remember that Victorian doll, called Annabelle, from The Conjuring, right? Yes the one with that hideous porcelain face, blonde braids, rouged cheeks, obscenely dark lipstick and thread-like eyebrows drawn high up the forehead? Yes, the one that was hidden away in their celebrated basement by the ghost-hunting couple, Ed and Lorraine Warren.
A still from Anabelle
Well, making Annabelle scary was a great idea, except she was never scary to begin with.
The film looks relatively interesting at first. It starts by promising monsters of some sort. Instead, it transforms into a garden variety wolf. Add to that enough cringe-inducing melodrama, the non-believing husband and the new mommy in 1970s America. The strange occurrences, rearranged household items, the troubled neighbours, it all feels really played out, very “been there, done that” kind.
Even though the film offers nothing special, I was having fun with it for a while. Then (SPOILERS!) suddenly you see Mia (played by coincidental namesake Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) fight the demon to save their child, and their priest actually helps the distressed couple. That. Where have we seen that before, you would ask? I tuned out from that point on and don’t remember much about what happens after that. Neither would you.
Moreover, if you're the daredevil kinds looking for some unbridled horror, it'll be tougher making through the film without wanting to walk out every 15 minutes. And when it's finally over, you'll immediately regret not quitting after the first half an hour!
A still from Anabelle
The second half is only slightly better, but Annabelle herself is not exactly terrifying. She’s not the agent of evil we expect her to be.
But that said, there are eerie moments in the film. The appearance of a horned demon in Mia’s basement in their second house makes for one effective sequence: the lift doors close, we breathe a sigh of relief, but it’s jammed on that floor and poor Mia is stuck in the haunted basement, with flickering light bulbs and sounds of babies howling. Now that was no LOL (Laugh Out Loud) even for the dopamine-seeker who lives for such psychological thrills.
Leonetti gets a B for effort, but Annabelle still isn’t scary. Most of the time you just wonder how these dopes manage to let a little doll stay in their house, when they know everything is wrong with it. There’s also a lot of padding/filler to stretch the film out to 98 minutes.
Annabelle is not terrible, but it's not very good either. The premise is flimsy and the leads are tolerable, but the film never manages to rise above mediocrity. There isn’t much suspense and the scares are minimal.
All in all, it could have been a decent but unremarkable prequel. Instead it ends up being mostly worthless.