I will be skipping the toy aisle from now on
By Jason Wiese
I liked 2014’s Annabelle.
Now, before you close out of this link and write off any further opinion I express in this review of a horror film, please be patient and bear with me: I fully understand and agree with most of the negativity that director John R. Leonetti’s spin-off of The Conjuring has been subjected to over the past three years. The film certainly has its flaws, including shameless borrowing from horror classics, a predictably formulaic storyline and an idiotic male lead. But, what I do not understand is people’s inability to have fun with a film about a creepy, demon-possessed doll that, I believe, delivers some satisfying scares without ever taking itself too seriously.
However, in the hands of director David F. Sandberg, the prequel to Annabelle, subtitled Creation is a film that does not satisfy me as much as I hoped when looking for scares, but it certainly takes itself seriously.
For the sake of keeping some of the film’s most shocking elements a surprise, I will keep the plot details to a sufficient minimum. In the late 1950s after their orphanage is shuttered, a nun (Stephanie Stigman) and a group of orphaned girls, including best friends Linda (Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Bateman), take refuge in the home of a lonely middle-aged couple (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto). The husband’s occupation: dollmaker. The name given to a particular doll he keeps locked away in the house for a very disturbing reason: Annabelle. The inevitable victims of the demonic entity that lives inside Annabelle after it is released from captivity: everyone.
What I have noticed from most critics’ positive reception of the film is that it is being called a refreshing and surprising improvement on its predecessor citing a more terrifying delivery and a unique storyline. As a big fan of the horror genre who as even gone as far as taking a class exploring its influence and history, I would have to disagree with both claims. The film delivers great thrills, but is not much scarier than the first film managed to be, for me at least. I was actually disappointed to find that, despite its R-rating, the film is surprisingly tame in comparison to Sandberg’s 2016 debut Lights Out. The story, despite being wonderfully well told by a director with an obvious passion for the genre, is still plagued by the stale taste of creepy doll thrillers and even supernatural thrillers that involve themes of possession in general.
What Creation does improve upon its predecessor is a cast that never feels weak, wasted or out of place (you can’t catch a break, can you, Ward Horton?) who lend strong performances to compelling characters who create a believable atmosphere surrounding the obvious fantasy. Bateman, the heart and soul (no pun intended) on the film, is brilliant, carrying herself beautifully in the film’s most chilling moments. But the one who steals the show is Wilson who, in her second horror period piece that is also a prequel (see last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil), could be our next great scream queen.
Annabelle: Creation is an overall satisfying thriller that once again proves that we live in a time in which the horror genre is rich in thoroughly enjoyable storytelling and plenty of great thrills. But just as a I said in my review of Lights Out, I am still waiting for Sandberg, a filmmaker I have plenty of admiration for, to show us something that will really send us leaping from our seats. I beg you once again, show us your worst, Sandberg.