#REVIEW: “ANNABELLE: CREATION”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Annabelle: Creation is a rather unique Film in theory. It works as a Prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, which was a Prequel to The Conjuring as well as a spin-off in its own right, and is now being marketed heavily as the next chapter in a so-called Conjuring universe of Films. Still with me? Complicated connections aside, Creation is a Prequel/Sequel very few of us were clamouring for – but to my surprise, may be one of the best horror films we have seen all year.
Sometime during the 1950’s, Janice (Talitha Bateman), Linda (Lulu Wilson) and the rest of their small group of orphaned young girls have just relocated into an old farmhouse. The farmhouse’s residents, Samuel and Esther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) are happy to have them, but are hiding a few secrets about their past – including the creepy doll named Annabelle locked away in their dead daughter’s bedroom closet.
Much like the rest of the Conjuring universe, Creation is a Film drenched in atmospheric dread and tension. The Film starts off as a slow burn, introducing the players and the central horrific mystery revolving around the most unsettling doll ever created. The jump scares are gradual at first, but as the Film progresses, all bets are off and genuine terror sets in. As you might expect, many of the scariest moments often dwell on clichés the audience will spot instantly. But the difference here (especially in comparison to Creation’s rather forgettable predecessor) is that Director David F. Sandberg is tuned into the genre’s conventions and knows exactly how to subvert the audience’s expectations. Some moments are more creative than others, but the way he manipulates and uses lights – much like he did last summer in Lights Out – astounded me throughout. I just wish he would rely on CGI a little bit less.
Where Creation stumbles is within its script. I enjoyed some of the origin elements, but the story around them leaves a lot to be desired. It draws on the same religious iconography of the other films, plays into elements of the creepy kid genre popularized in the 1970s and stifles much of its character development. While it does not rip-off classic films wholesale like Annabelle did with Rosemary’s Baby, there is not much happening in the story that really sets Creation apart. What does stand out is the one-two punch of Bateman and Wilson, who are positively electrifying in their roles. You feel their emotions in every single scene, and fear for their well-being as all hell breaks loose. Their characters feel very lived in and develop quite wonderfully. It’s a real shame their energy is not as infectious as it should be.
And in case you might have forgotten some of the smaller details, Creation does a great job tying into Annabelle – and even teases next summer’s Spin-off of The Nun from The Conjuring 2 (because one terrifying break-out character was clearly not enough for this universe).
Annabelle: Creation is the Prequel we did not ask for, but is the one we deserved the first time around. It is so much better than Annabelle in almost every single way, and there are some genuinely scary scenes scattered throughout the Film. By subverting audience expectations, Sandberg has created a Film that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Conjuring. And he makes it crystal clear why large gothic dolls may be among the worst toys ever created.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release ANNABELLE: CREATION on Friday, August 11, 2017.