Cookie-cutter ‘Annabelle’ Offers Zero Scares

by Brian Reeves on October 2, 2014

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rock Fist Way Down]

Dolls are creepy. The way they stare back at you with dead, lifeless, unblinking eyes is unsettling. Horror films have known this for years, and there have been plenty of movies that take advantage of it. Annabelle is the latest addition to the list of scary-doll films. Unfortunately, outside of one or two well-done scenes, Annabelle is unable to capture the scares and thrills of its far superior source material, the 2013 release The Conjuring.

Promotional material for the film reads, “Before the The Conjuring, there was Annabelle.” The creepy doll played a small part in The Conjuring as vessel for demons trying to take human souls.

Director John R. Leonetti and writer Gary Dauberman, neither of which were involved with The Conjuring, assume you already know this and make no effort whatsoever to give the doll anything other than a wham-bam thank you ma’am origin story. One drop of Satanic cultist’s blood in the doll’s eye equals possessed demon-doll within the first 10 minutes, as if to say: “Good enough everyone? Okay, moving on. Here are a lot of shots of the creepy looking doll sitting still with scary musical score because you already know where this is headed.”

Prequels are, by nature, tricky propositions. This is even more so in horror movies as the predetermined next step at the end of the movie takes away any sense of mystery about what’s going to happen to the bad guy/demon. We already know it won’t be defeated because we’ve already seen the next chapter. The only thing left is how we get there.

The summed-up plot of Annabelle is generic enough to read like a horror-movie cookie recipe: A mother of a newborn baby is tormented by a demon attempting to hurt her child while skeptical father has no interactions with said demon. Add a dash of Satanic cult members, a priest, and an older woman who instantly understands of her predicament, mix thoroughly, and bake at 666 degrees until done.

With no new ground to tread, a shoestring budget, and a “we need to capitalize on the success of The Conjuring” rush-to-production time schedule, you get exactly what you’d expect — a dull, generic horror film that relies on loud banging noises and jump-scare tactics that is more suited to straight-to-video than a wide theatrical release. I mean, is a movie really even trying when it’s supposed to be set in 1968 and when an emergency happens, someone is actually instructed to “call 911”?

Even if you loved The Conjuring, and I am a fan, there’s just not much reason to see Annabelle. It’s not scary, it’s not fun, and it’s just plain not good. Rock fist way down, save your money.

Brian loves horror movies, old-school heavy metal, and beer — not necessarily in that order. He also digs all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and is willing to fight people who actually think the Paranormal Activity series is scary because it’s not.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve October 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm

1968 was actually the year that 911 became the national emergency number. :P

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2 ronda October 12, 2014 at 6:16 am

Los Angeles County CA 911 was first implemented in 1984.

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