Annabelle: Creation Review
Annabelle: Creation (2017) Film Review from the 23rd Annual Los Angeles Film Festival, a movie directed by David F. Sandberg, starring Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Miranda Otto, Anthony LaPaglia, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Philippa Coulthard, Lulu Wilson, Adam Bartley, Kerry O’Malley, Brian Howe, Brad Greenquist, Samara Lee, Joseph Bishara, Lotta Losten, and Grace Fulton.
A year after the spectacular premiere of both The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out at the LA Film Festival, I found myself eagerly looking forward to Annabelle: Creation. Not only was it billed as a loose tie-in to the former film, but the latter movie’s director, first-timer David F. Sandberg, was tapped to helm it, so I had high confidence in the project’s ability to break further ground in the realm of cinematic horror. Regrettably, it looks like my confidence in the film was misplaced, as Creation marks nothing less than a creative step backward for Sandberg.
With the combined talent between all the film’s actors, it’s a shock that they aren’t able to do much with their characters, who seem to have been written as thinly as possible. Yes, one doesn’t watch horror movies to be wowed by the performances, but if they’re going to make us spend as much time with a given set of characters as much as this movie does with its own, they should at the very least make them believable. Both Stephanie Sigman and Anthony LaPaglia get in inklings of engaging performances as Sister Charlotte and Mr. Mullins, but Sigman is mostly limited to playing off her younger co-stars and LaPaglia is largely confined, as he jokingly acknowledged after the screening, to stomping around and giving Charlotte’s charges something to be afraid of before Annabelle shows up.
As for the girls themselves, they all do commendable jobs and are clearly talented young ladies, but the orphans they portray are either the bravest girls in the world or the dumbest. Is there anyone who believes that a little girl who ran out of a room because there was a creepy doll inside it would later peek through the keyhole into said room and, upon seeing the exact same doll rocking on a chair all by itself, open the door and enter? Are there any adults who would, for that matter?
Speaking of dumbness, it feels like the only thing the characters have going for them in their fight against Annabelle is dumb luck. There is nothing like the moment in Lights Out when Alexander DiPersia narrowly escapes from Diana by brilliantly flipping his car’s lights on and bathing the evil spirit in the beams: instead, it seems like characters survive only because their demonic pursuer gets bored of chasing them and moves on to another potential quarry. At times, Annabelle appears capable of manifesting pretty much anywhere she wants on the grounds of the Mullins household while at others a locked door serves as a sufficient barrier to her ungodly presence.
This inconsistency is painfully apparent in one scene when Linda (Lulu Wilson) locks a door to keep Annabelle out before trying to escape through the dumbwaiter. Of course, Annabelle is waiting for her in the room below and she barely escapes by going back up, where the door is now open. If Annabelle knew the dumbwaiter was there and that Linda could use it to escape, why didn’t she use it to get into the room herself? What made the door finally open? It wasn’t broken in, so it’s not like she used brute force to open it.
Suspension of disbelief is a necessary element of horror but without a set of consistent rules and logic the stakes become impossible to discern and the chase becomes cheap. If Annabelle: Creation is to be remembered for anything, chances are it will be the expository role it plays in the Conjuring universe rather than any actual contributions it makes to the horror genre.
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