This week my movie is Annabelle: Creation. There’s been a dearth of horror films lately, particularly good horror films, so I had some high hopes going in. There were lots of jump scares. Normally I would say this is a bad thing, horror films that rely on jump scares to get their audience are usually pretty lame. But this may be the first horror film I’ve seen that used them well. You knew there were jump scares coming and it was that tension that made things well. This film used every trick: footsteps, the dark, point-of-view (where you can see something behind the character but they don’t know it’s there) and most of all my favorite, The Uncanny Valley.
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.
Annabelle: Creation knows how to do horror, that’s obvious. I’ve heard the key to horror is making the characters helpless and then making them even more helpless as time goes on. This film did that very very well. All the weird trappings for horror were there too. Children? Check. Religion? Check and Check. Scars and/or deformity? Uh-huh. Creepy Farmhouse? Yep. I could go on, but you get the idea. Also, it was wonderfully paced, with a nice slow burn right at start. But rather than wasting time, Annabelle: Creation uses the slow period to introduce relatable characters who had feelings and goals and their relationships. So by the time the scary stuff happens (and it does), there was a part of me that desperately didn’t want it to.
Anthony Lapaglia was so good in this movie; he looked tired to the bone. And not Daniel-Craig-I-Just-Can’t-Do-Another-Bond-Film tired, but the weary solemnity of a character who has suffered a lot and knows he will suffer more. Stephanie Sigman and Talitha Bateman were fantastic and I was happy to see Lulu Wilson, who was amazing in Ouija: Origins of Evil. She was just as good here. Looks like they also imported The Demon from Ouija: OoE, though I liked it better here. So many good performances and it very effortlessly passed the Bechdel Test, in nearly every scene.
One thing I really didn’t like was the fact that the Supernatural Evil didn’t seem to have any rules. There’s a difference between the characters not knowing the rules (and thus being helpless) and there just not being any rules. Annabelle: Creation, I feel, had no rules. We didn’t know what the Monster could or could not do. Part of the joy of a horror film, at least for me, is when the characters discover where the evil came from and glean the rules to defeat it. What little explanation there was felt as flimsy as a porn scene premise. I have to admit, though, it still scared the shit right out of me. Maybe the rules aren’t as essential as I thought.
So is Annabelle: Creation worth watching? Yes, most definitely. It’s a good time. Though don’t bring the kids, it’s way too intense (seriously I saw children in the audience). I’m going to have to see the original The Conjuring – this was the fourth movie that came from that source and it was pretty good. I might even watch this one again, I’m pretty sure there were things I missed.