With a demonic doll, a creepy cult and a sinister story, Annabelle has the makings of a must-see horror.
A prequel to James Wan’s The Conjuring, the film uncovers the origins of the demonically possessed doll Annabelle – a vintage doll that began as an innocent gift from a husband to his pregnant wife, but turns into something much more sinister.
Based on a true story, the real Annabelle doll was a simple Raggedy Ann Doll that was purchased by a mother to her daughter as a birthday present, not the creepy porcelain version we see in this flick – a choice that makes you wonder why a young couple would welcome such a scary looking doll into their lives in the first place.
Set in 1970, a year before The Conjuring, the film introduces us to Mia and John – a loving church going couple expecting their first child. But when their home is brutally attacked by a sadistic cult, a demonic force is released into the childhood doll. An evil that won’t let go of Mia or her baby.
Bed ridden after the attack, Mia is ultimately left helpless as the evil powers begin to take control of their suburban home. The horrors start out small – the baby mobile moving on its own, the sewing machine starting by itself, the rocking chair moving – but when an unexpected fire rips through their home, the couple throw Annabelle out in the trash and relocate to Pasadena, hoping that they’ve escaped the curse on their home.
But like most horrors, moving isn’t the answer and surprise, surprise, Annabelle has come along for the ride.
Using extreme close ups of Mia’s sewing machine complete with the deafening sound of the needle, tension is built to the terrifying max and as you’d expect, Annabelle is the true star of the show, with her menacing fixed smile and glazed eyes haunting every single frame and rock of the rocking chair.
Ward Horton (The Wolf Of Wall Street) does a convincing job as Mia’s caring yet slightly condescending husband, John, while Annabelle Wallis (X-Men: First Class) plays a passive, naive Mia – an interesting choice to cast a leading actress with the same name as the demonic doll.
Although it’s a little slow going at first, there are some terrifying edge-of-the-seat scares in the second half. With a creepy woman in a white night dress appearing to wander around the rooms of their new apartment, there’s also a nail biting lift ride, a dark and distressing stair case and a brutal crib smashing, that will leave you gasping and shrieking in disbelief.
However, there are a few pointless plots along the way. The couple’s new knowledgeable neighbour Evelyn, played by Alfre Woodard (Star Trek First Contact), seemed a little too convenient and overly considerate, while Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola (The Legend of Zorro) was again a bit too handy and disposable, even if he did bring to the table one of the most conventional aspects of a horror – not even God can save you.
My only wish was that Annabelle was more than just a prop. Spending most of the film willing her to move on her own, the only scene that she levitates from the ground is stolen by the black, horned devil lurking behind her – it’s a fantastic scene that uses lighting and haunting music superbly – I just craved for more.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a guts and gore flick or a tongue in cheek horror comedy like Chucky. Instead, it’s a psychological terror ride, that may not be as frightening as The Conjuring, but it’s one that will make you look at dolls very differently….