From Chucky to Pennywise, clowns and dolls have long been a staple of the horror movie genre. Fast forward to 2013’s ‘The Conjuring”, starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farminga as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, and Hollywood introduces moviegoers to the creepiest doll of them all, Annabelle.
Such was the success of ‘The Conjuring” and the fact that Annabelle appeared in the film’s marketing materials (despite the fact she wasn’t central to the plot) a spin-off seemed inevitable. ”Annabelle” is directed by John R. Leonetti who was the cinematographer on both James Wan’s ”Insidious” films and ”The Conjuring’. This time Wan takes the producer’s chair, so if you liked those movies at least you know the material is in familiar hands.
”Annabelle” is effectively an origin story to the supposed true events that play out in the pre-credits sequence of ”The Conjuring”. The plot follows a young couple Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) preparing for the birth of their first child. As a pre-maternity gift, John buys Mia a rare vintage doll to add to her already existing collection of creepy looking dolls, which we immediately recognise as Annabelle. When their home is invaded by a satanic cult an evil is left behind that starts to manifest itself through the doll. But it’s when their newborn daughter returns home from the hospital that the supernatural occurrences are turned up to 11 and things go from bad to worse.
Here’s the thing, ”Annabelle” is full of the clichés that any seasoned horror fan will roll their eyes at. There is nothing original here and it seems every character in the movie has been borrowed from countless others. And yet, after a relatively slow start, Annabelle does keep you entertained. Expect to jump a lot too, even when you think you know it’s coming don’t relax, there’s a few in there to catch you off guard!
The performances are all perfectly functionary although Ward Horton’s John is a little two dimensional as the understanding but skeptical husband. But this film is really about the two Annabelles and Annabelle Wallis does a good job convincing us of the vulnerable new mother set upon by demonic forces. But of course it’s the doll that steals the show, and what really works is that many of the supernatural occurrences happen away from Annabelle, you won’t see her chasing anyone with a knife Chucky-style and that makes her knowing sinister grin even more frightening.
”Annabelle” offers nothing truly original to the genre and is very much a paint-by-numbers horror film. You’ve seen all the moves before. And if you ever buy a doll that creepy looking then you deserve everything you get! Not a horror classic by any means but a worthy jump fest all the same.