Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
I watched The Conjuring on a whim last summer after hearing the surprising amount of praise. I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat nearly the entire time, jumping at specific intervals and was genuinely creeped out at others. I desperately hoped I would not let out yelps of terror like the Gentleman beside me, clutching his Girlfriend. One of the standout moments of the Film involved a sinister looking Doll named Annabelle.
And surprise surprise, just over a year later, that Doll has its own Film – a pseudo-origin Story no less.
Following a freak home invasion, John (Ward Horton) and his very pregnant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis) try to look forward to the future. But bizarre incidents around the house stop them from progressing, and the incidents continue even after the birth of the Baby and the Family moving out. Mia believes her eerie vintage Doll Annabelle may have something to do with it, and quickly realizes there may be a very menacing reason for the hauntings.
Annabelle makes no qualms about being a quick cash-in picture, but we must give credit where it is due. Although the close-ups of the Doll become downright obnoxious all too quickly, the look and feel of the Film is top-notch. Kudos to veteran Cinematographer John R. Leonetti, who does a spectacular job maintaining a creepy and bizarre tone from beginning to end. There is something uneasy about every scene, no matter the context. But the revelation here is Wallis, who shares a first name in real life with the Titular Character. She goes through hell and back, and seems to revel in the Film’s progression of terror and horror. She may be the Damsel-in-distress, but she makes Mia sympathetic enough that you actually care what is happening to her.
And just looking at Annabelle herself – well, she is the stuff of nightmares.
But my main gripe with Annabelle is that it suffers from an identity crisis at all times. It seems all too comfortable riding on The Conjuring’s coattails (going as far as to bookend this Film with scenes from the original, as if anyone watching will have forgotten), while also cribbing imagery and ideas from Rosemary’s Baby. Anything original about the Film seems to have been lifted from something else. It makes the Film less authentic than it should be, and gives some of the scarier moments a bit less credibility. And outside of Wallis, the Supporting Cast is underwritten, underused and lack all of her enthusiasm for the material.
The Conjuring was a demented funhouse of Horror and fright that took pride in how gleeful and terrifying it was. Annabelle is just too serious for its own good, and does not take enough chances to really make itself stand out. It has a great atmosphere and an awesome Lead performance, but sadly, not much else.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release ANNABELLE on Friday, October 3, 2014.