Dir. John R. Leonetti (2014)
The creepy-ass doll from the intro to The Conjuring gets its own movie because of course it does. Thankfully, it’s creepy enough that the movie doesn’t suck.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
You’ll notice that The Conjuring was made in 2013 and this movie was rushed-like-hell to theaters just a year later. The film opens with a little written segment about how dolls have long been toys and conduits for rituals throughout human history, which sets us up for an actually-creepy movie and better-than-it-deserves-to-be spinoff of the original Conjuring movie. The movie is about a couple, a pregnant wife and med-school husband, who happen to live next door to another couple whose daughter has run off to join a Manson-inspired cult. Their daughter returns in the middle of the night and murders her parents and then thinks, hey, I mean I’m already here, and tries to murder the main couple and their unborn child. During the melee, the cult-daughter kills herself while holding the Annabelle doll, because, gasp, her name is Annabelle! That’s how the doll gets its name and horrible attitude!
Daughter of the Year material here.
The murder cult scenes are extremely creepy and I think legitimately one of my worst fears, and adding a doll to the mix only elevates the creep factor from 11 to somewhere around 30. After narrowly escaping with her life, the late-pregnant-and-then-delivered mother keeps having a presence try to kill her throughout the movie. This leads to a bunch of jumbled plot wherein the doll is trying to possess her by tricking her into thinking it took her baby. The couple originally thinks that the demon wants to possess their baby, but because demons are totally woke, it can’t without the baby’s consent so it has to settle for the mother. The film definitely stumbles along with the plot issues but still manages to deliver a ton of unsettling cinematography and Rosemary’s Baby-esque scenery.
Annabelle is definitely not the worst Conjuring films, but it’s also far from the best. The film is desperately missing James Wan, Patrick Wilson, and Vera Farmiga, but the actors present do a good enough job to make the movie worth a watch. Ironically, the lead actress’ name is also Annabelle, and for those Wan-ophiles in the audience, she also plays the lead in his new film Malignant. The movie is filled with other horror movie goodies and references, like how the characters are named Mia and John in reference to Rosemary’s Baby, and the doll itself is named after a character from the Twilight Zone “Living Doll” episode. It’s a nice little punch up that helps the film recall its roots a little, and it’s a cool Easter Egg for fans.
Annabelle is creepier, but this one is a classic.
Annabelle feels a little like Ouija: don’t get me wrong, it’s a way better movie than the original Ouija, but the comparison can be made. It’s got a few scary scenes, it doesn’t feel like a complete movie, and it starts to feel a little lacking in the plot department, and it’s followed by a sequel that is superior in every single way imaginable. Annabelle Comes Home is a way better movie, and we’ll be reviewing that next, so you won’t have to wait long to find out why, but Annabelle is a decent introduction for a truly creeptastic character and has enough scares to make it worthwhile.
Who this movie is for: Conjuring Universe fans, Modern horror fans, Pediophobics (which is the actual term for fear of dolls. See, you learned something today!)
Bottom line: Definitely suffers from a lack of star power and a great director, but it’s an infinitely better film than The Devil Made Me Do It. Annabelle is scary, and this is a decent intro just to get you to Comes Home if nothing else. It’s a good addition to the Conjuring Universe and is totally worth adding to a rewatch of the series.