Review: Annabelle: Creation
The Ultra-Rare Prequel to a Prequel That is Well Worth Seeing
Annabelle: Creation is a film released by Warner Bros. Studios and directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out). It stars Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto. Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, which itself is a prequel to the 2013 film The Conjuring, making it the fourth film in the Conjuring Universe. I know, I know — another cinematic universe; but stay with me here, accept that we live an era where studios are smitten with world-building because Annabelle: Creation is a pretty good movie.
Samuel Mullins, a dollmaker, and his wife Esther, whose daughter died twelve years earlier, open their home to Sister Charlotte, a nun, and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed. The dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle, sets her sights on the girls turning their shuttered shelter into a storm of terror.
This prequel to a prequel is stirring up a lot of buzz in movieland, and after having seen this film, I can understand why that is the case. It is rare enough for a prequel to be superior to an original film, but for Annabelle: Creation to be a good movie is ultra-rare. The characters, direction, sound editing, and cinematography blend to create a frighteningly enjoyable film.
The story centers around two orphaned girls, Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson). They are best friends, do everything together, and even dream of one day being adopted by the same family. One thing this film gets right in a big way is that it sets up their relationship in such a compelling way. You buy it from the first scene they share together, and their friendship is endearing and believable throughout the movie. It’s one of the elements of this film that makes it such a great movie that is at its core a character-driven story; when things get scary and bad stuff starts to happen you care about what happens to these two characters. Sister Charlotte (Sigman) was a decent addition to the Annabelle storyline as well. Although her character is a bit naive and slow to pick up on the demonic presence (I mean c’mon you’re a nun, shouldn’t you have like a 6th sense about these things?) I enjoyed the part Sister Charlotte played in the movie. I thought that her motherly presence was a nice counter balance to Otto’s character Esther Mullins, who after losing her daughter is very detached from everyone else living in the Mullin’s home.
David F. Sandberg’s direction of this movie was another win for me. I loved Lights Out, and Sandberg continues to do a fantastic job of creating a sense of suspense and tension in Annabelle: Creation. There are moments in this film that you expect to feel safe in a typical horror movie, and then he pulls the rug right out from under your feet. In one particular scene, one of the girls has suffered an injury and is bound to a wheelchair. Sister Charlotte wheels her outside, it’s a bright sunny afternoon, and the sister thinks it would do this girl some good to be out in the sun getting some fresh air. As a viewer this is a time you expect there to be a respite from frightening imagery; after all, demons only come out at night right? This is precisely the moment Sandberg chooses to lead into what is perhaps one of the more frightening sequences in the entire movie. It was a complete surprise to me, and it was that kind of decisions that keep you a little off balance and tense throughout Annabelle: Creation because you’re not always completely sure where the next scare is going to come from. I also really enjoyed the music in this movie and thought that it was a great companion to the visuals. It was integral in driving home the mood and tones of this film.
Annabelle: Creation is not a perfect movie, and I found Samuel and Esther Mullins (LaPaglia and Otto respectively) to be weaker characters, and this film does suffer slightly from your typical horror tropes. Neither of these items are scathing indictments, but rather minor criticisms.
Although the Mullins characters were portrayed well in Annabelle: Creation I felt like they didn’t have a lot to do after the beginning sequence of this movie. Samuel Mullins is a brooding figure throughout the film, and you also get the feeling he knows a few things he’s not sharing. Although I understand that we don’t have a movie if he lets us all in on what’s really going on, I think Samuel is a little too cryptic. He’s also not given a chance to become a fully realized character and think that was a bit of a missed opportunity. The same goes for Esther Mullins, who spends most of the movie bed-ridden with injuries that shouldn’t cause someone to be sequestered to their room. Esther is really a non-character until it’s necessary for her to tell our main characters the proper back story. I do have to say though that the performance’s from LaPaglia and Otto are excellent, their pain is believable and they play their parts well they just weren’t given enough to do in Annabelle: Creation.
In a world where there should never be a pre-prequel that is this good Annabelle: Creation is actually better than it’s predecessor Annabelle and is an entertaining ‘haunted house’ story. It is a well-crafted character driven story that I think will entertain most audiences. I’m going to recommend seeing this movie with one condition; this film is for you as long as you can handle horror movies where the theme is demonic possession with a definite spiritual bent. If possessed entities and exorcisms really bother you, you’ll want to take a hard pass on this one.
That’s how I’m calling this one, but I’d like to know what do you guys think? Do you plan on seeing Annabelle: Creation? Am I spot on, or out of my mind? Let me know in the comments below. Also be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. As always thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at the movies.