Review: Annabelle: Creation
A while back, people figured out dolls are as creepy as can be. Whether its the dimensions, the never-changing gaze or those glassy facial features, few things are as terrifying as the idea of a doll possessed. This has been true my entire life. So it makes sense that horror franchises keep returning to this well year after year; this stuff is scary. But when the horror tropes we're used to do not come with ideas that feel fresh or original, the end result can feel stale. Annabelle: Creation suffers from just that. This fourth entry into horror maestro James Wan's The Conjuring universe suffers from an animating purpose that would make it worthwhile. Characters in horror movies are often doing head-scratching things, but when there seems to be no real point to it all, it can start to feel like a waste of everyone's time.
Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to its predecessor. It chronicles the creation and origin story of a doll possessed by Satan. The opening scenes introduce the Mullins family. Samuel Mullins (played by Anthony LaPaglia) is a dollmaker living in the countryside with his wife and their young daughter. When their daughter is killed in a car accident, the Mullins suffer through having an empty nest for several years.
Fed up with an all too quiet house, the Mullins take in a group of girls from a Catholic orphanage. When they do, the spirit of their daughter haunts the house through Annabelle, a suddenly evil doll Mr. Mullins made several years back. Faced with demonic possession, the girls and their caretaker, Sister Charlotte (played by Stephanie Sigman) must fight these demonic forces before they kill them all.
Okay, okay, okay. The plot is extra dumb. But that is sort of par for the course as these things go. Usually there is some object of demonic possession and the audience is supposed to play along as the characters slowly figure out what we knew from the start--that the best course of action is to RUN! That said, if you can tackle this formula with something interesting to say about the world, it's pretty easy to garner heaps of praise. The bar is pretty low and this film just doesn't do much to get over it.
And that's where Annabelle: Creation falls short. While it certainly has scare tactics and any number of creepy images, it never feels like there is a real point. Gone are the trademark James Wan questions of social justice, foundations of faith and any number of other social topics he has tackled over the years. A perfect example is the multiethnic cast. The mix of Black, White and Latino should give you an inordinate number of things to say about 1960s America, but the film seems uninterested. Overall, the material just seems a little thin. If you are there for the jump scares, you're still in for a good time. It's just a shame there's nothing to think about.
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