Annabelle – Movie Review by Cormac Fitzgerald
Directed by: John Leonetti
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola
In cinemas: October 10
Billed as a prequel to 2013’s successful The Conjuring, Annabelle is horror movie like so many others. Set a year before the events of The Conjuring, it concerns a possessed doll that featured briefly in that movie, the eponymous Annabelle, as it plagues a young couple and their new baby. The Conjuring was a well-paced, frightening movie – the same cannot be said for Annabelle. Starting with a scene from the previous film, where a group of panicky nurses discuss the haunted doll, it quickly skips backwards to 1970. Young newlyweds Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) live in a relaxed, leafy suburban neighbourhood. Mia is heavily pregnant and John is close to getting residency at his hospital. One night, John gives Mia the gift of a vintage doll to complete her collection. The doll is laughably grotesque and horrifying on first sight and any half-sane person would throw it out immediately, but hey this is 1970’s before the haunted doll movie trope had been done to death (Child’s Play won’t be released for another 18 years!) so she decides keep it.
Then one night the idyllic life is shattered when their neighbours’ missing daughter Annabelle shows up with her cultish boyfriend. In an excellently shot and frightening scene – director John R. Leonetti was director of cinematography for The Conjuring and it’s easy to see why – the two Satanists butcher her parents and stab Mia in the stomach before both are shot by police and Annabelle dies clutching the new doll, her blood seeping into its the eye sockets. Guess what happens next? Yep, you’ve got it, creepy stuff: the doll moves places, appliances turn on randomly, the TV signal goes and the haunting culminates in untended popcorn burning the house down. The family relocate to an apartment in Pasadena, where they don’t fare much better.
Without giving too much away, Mia feels her new born baby is threatened by the evil doll and rushes around trying to convince everyone of the same while fending off spirits and haunted baby carriages and malfunctioning lifts.
After the strength of that first scare scene the movie goes severely downhill. It’s well shot throughout and is pretty to look at but all we’re given is the same old tired horror movie clichés that have been done and overdone again and again. Along the way there’s stoic priest (Tony Amendola) well versed in the supernatural and kindly stranger, Eveline (Alfre Woodard) with a knowledge of the occult. Plot points pop up and fizzle out – one example is when two strange kids show up and draw disturbing pictures only never to be seen or mentioned again.
The plot itself becomes more convoluted as the movie goes on, the doll’s intentions (never actually named Annabelle) aren’t really clear until the end and once revealed make you question its actions all along. You might even question why the movie is even called Annabelle in the first place. Annabelle Wallis (convenient name) as Mia is the main focus of the movie and she does a good job running around and looking scared, but there’s no real depth there beyond the one dimensional wife and mother who will do anything to save her baby.
As the movie cycles through boring twists and trundles towards an overlong climax that, and I’m going to stress this, doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, it’s hard to see the point of hanging around. Annabelle is a bad movie that looks good: to avoid being haunted by the wasted ticket price, I’d steer well clear.