On paper, there’s no way Annabelle: Creation, a sequel to 2014’s abysmal Annabelle, should work. After watching it, I can’t help but wonder, what went right? How can a prequel to a steaming pile of shit, be better than it has any right to be?
Annabelle: Creation, (a laughably bad title) is a new installment in the so-called “Conjuring Cinematic Universe”, and it’s directed by Swedish director, David F. Sandberg, who defied odds in his previous movie, Lights Out, another horror movie that was way better than it should’ve been. He basically took a unique concept, and made it into an actually entertaining enough horror movie, and he does the same here.
Make no mistake, this movie is NOT perfect. It’s nowhere as dread inducing as 2016’s The Witch, or as wildly different as this year’s Get Out, but it does so much right, one can’t help but be legitimately surprised, at how good it is.
The movie revolves around a bunch of orphans, who agree to move into a house, with a dark history, in the middle of nowhere. One of the orphans, a cripple, goes into a locked room, unwittingly allows a demon to possess her, and the entire group gets terrorized.
There’s no point in explaining the plot, because we’ve seen it. Countless times. Tell me if this sounds new –
A group of people move into a place with a dark past, they are all idiots, one of them unwittingly unleashes evil, shit hits the fan.
Not really fresh, but then again, if handled masterfully, it can do wonders, like this, or The Conjuring. Sandberg and crew utilize almost every trope and cliché in horror, throughout the movie. Hell, it is even possible to predict what might happen in the movie, but they utilize them so well, they deserve heaps of praise. You expect a jumpscare, you know when and where it’ll happen, and it does. But it’s the execution here, that truly matters, and makes Creation a much more layered horror experience.
Most importantly, the sound designers and the cinematographer, deserve much applause. The sound design and editing, and the cinematography, are flawless. Eli Roth once said, and I’m paraphrasing, a horror movie ceases to become scary, if the sound is removed. He couldn’t have put it more perfectly. The sounds in the movie alone are enough to put anyone on edge. The music just adds to the visceral impact of the ambient noise.
And the cinematography is immaculate. Beautiful shots, some tracking shots, (there have been a lot of these post Birdman), and some striking imagery, lend gravitas to the movie’s proceedings. Major, MAJOR, props need to be given to the actors. Stephanie Sigman (from Narcos), Anthony LaPaglia, and LOTR alum Miranda Otto give truly emotional performances. Which in turn, makes us, the audience, yearn for them. Horror movies need to make us have some sort of emotional connect with the characters on-screen, and this movie does that perfectly.
Not only the grown ups, the children too, put up a stellar display of acting talent. And for kids being terrorised by forces from beyond the grave, they did a great job. Lulu Wilson, (who appeared in Ouija: Origin of Evil, another great prequel) puts up a great performance as the friend of the cripple, who begins to show concern for her friend’s worsening condition, upon possession.
Now, coming to the meat of the movie. The elements of horror.
The scares don’t really get under your skin, like they do in The Witch, but they are extremely effective. There are several moments of sheer, unrelenting dread. And these scenes are in no way undercut by a silly line of dialogue. The scares just keep going.
The theatre I watched it at didn’t have an interval, which only added to the fun haunted house ride this movie is. The gore is at a minimum, while the frightening imagery is TRULY frightening. Some of them are pure nightmare fuel.
What really stood out to me, was the usage of the eponymous doll. Whenever the doll appeared on screen, it drew uncomfortable laughs, and some whimpers, from the audience. And that was amazing. Unlike in the previous movie, where the doll was just…there, here it actually plays a pivotal part.
All in all, this movie surprised me. I walked in with average expectations, and came out quite surprised. It’s almost as good as the first Conjuring, and better than The Conjuring 2. It’ll be interesting to see how they go about building this “universe”.
Oh, and stay for the post credits.