Friday, October 3, 2014
The Conjuring was a surprise box office hit in 2013 so naturally the producers had to find a way to capitalize on its success a year later. Instead of a straight forward sequel or prequel they give us a big of a spin off on one of the artifacts featured in the film. ANNABELLE is a haunted doll featured in The Conjuring kept behind a protective glass case and blessed by clergymen twice a month to restrain the evil within. ANNABELLE is also the title of the spinoff we got that simply doesn't stand up to a solid haunted house/possession film that The Conjuring was.
Mia and John are expecting their first child when their neighbors and priest at their church are brutally murdered in the middle of the night. The young couple is also attacked while trying to help their neighbors with Mia suffering a stab wound to the stomach before the police gun down the attackers. They find out that the couple who attacked them were members of a cult, one of which was Annabelle Higgins, the daughter of the priest.was holding a doll that John had purchased Mia as a gift and bled into the doll as she suffered from her wounds. Strange things begin happening, doors opening and closing, the new doll appearing in different positions and eventually a big fire when the stove seemingly turned itself on and set a package of popcorn on fire. When John finds Mia recovering in the hospital from the fire he also finds that his baby daughter Leah has been born. The family decides to move into a new apartment and leave the strange things behind.
Unfortunately things only get stranger as the Annabelle doll appears at the bottom of one of the moving boxes despite John having thrown it away. Mia insists they keep it now as a memento of John's love. The same strange things are happening but it all gets more serious when Mia is stalked and attacked by a black demon in the storage unit area of the apartment building leaving her scarred with the image of the cult that attacked them in their old house. Mia and her friend Evelyn begin to research everything and ask their priest to take the doll away which lands him in the hospital with bad injuries and baby Leah missing. The demon that haunts them wants a soul and is tormenting Mia to give her life in exchange for the baby's. Seeing no other way to save the life of her daughter Mia readies herself to jump from the window of their apartment until Evelyn redeems her own personal demons to keep the family together.
Oh, ANNABELLE. The potential for a deeply creepy horror film was there. I was worried the focus would be on the doll in sort of a Child's Play spin. Thankfully the doll was nothing more than a catalyst for the evil, something for it to latch on to. The doll is featured in some creepy moments but the majority of its screen time is spent on lingering shots of the doll where the audience is expecting a sudden movement or jump scare of sorts. Speaking of jump scares if you've seen the trailer you've seen them all. They're all telegraphed and you can sense them all coming. The scariest parts of the film involve the demon that we see little of and how he stalks Mia, the best of these scenes being the one inside the storage unit area. Unfortunately as soon as that scene heads into the stairwell the cinematography starts to look like a music video and simply looks bad and cheap.
In fact "bad and cheap" can describe many of the issues this film has. Or to be more precise, rushed. You can feel in certain areas how this film was a rush job in the writing and it comes off as bad and cheap in the production. I'm a fan of the direction the movie took, I'm far from a fan of the execution of the writing and production. By the time the Evelyn character is introduced it becomes painfully obvious exactly where it's going to end up. And to nobodies surprise it ends up precisely where you thought it would.
There's word that several more of these spinoffs from The Conjuring are coming and hopefully the subsequent films that have more time to develop a story end up better than ANNABELLE did.