Annabelle Review

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Posted October 6, 2014 by Kierra Prince in Movies

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola, Brian Howe, and Kerry O’Malley

Directed By: John R. Leonetti

If anyone saw The Conjuring, they’re almost certain to remember the ultra-creepy doll named Annabelle who was ultimately locked inside a glass case to prevent the evil it contained from escaping. After the success of The Conjuring, New Line Cinema decided to cash in on the Warrens and give the doll its own movie. Which surprisingly, isn’t as awful as I thought it would be.

Annabelle gives us the doll’s  origin story in the form of the doll being possessed by a cult member during a ritual gone wrong. The family who owns the doll is then subjected to the various horrors the possessed doll/cult member enacts which may have something to do with summoning Satanic and demonic creatures, including the devil himself. And let’s be honest here, the story is super generic. As a horror fan, I’ve seen my fair share of possession films to know the general gist of all of them. Innocent family accidentally stumbles into some nasty demon business, their lives start to get ruined by said demons, and the family starts scrambling for answers in the form of the Church and various rituals of their own. We saw it in The Omen, we will see it in that Ouija board movie coming out, and The Exorcist more or less started it all. What makes Annabelle interesting however, is the slight things it brings that separate it from the other films in the genre. It actually gives us something to think about.

Early in the film we hear a segment on a TV regarding Charles Manson. Almost all of us are familiar with the man, his cult “family”, and the devastating murders that took place. When the movie brings in its own cult killers, it becomes hard to separate the random act of violence to the violence the Manson family enacted. When the main detective (played by Eric Ladin) makes a comment about it just being a random act of violence by crazy people, it’s interesting to compare their situation to that of the Manson’s and the way that the media hypes out murders and almost makes celebrities out of certain criminals while every day those type of things happen.

When the possession begins, it happens in an incredibly interesting way. Surprisingly, there’s very little that happens on screen until the later half. Most of the haunts near the beginning come in the form of sound or setups that we never actually get to see. Sewing machines turn on by themselves, Annabelle is found in different positions, rocking chairs rock by themselves, and so on. There’s some interestingly framed shots where we see the ghost of the dead cult member walking in the room that houses Annabelle but it’s all ultimately very tame and does a great job at just capturing the unknown. It’s easy to see the family not believing that anything would happen when the only scares come in the form of things that can easily have some form of explanation. The rocking chair is just the wind, the sewing machine is just technology being weird.

In fact, the scares don’t really ramp up until the family moves but that’s when the movie begins to really shine. Altogether the haunting begins to get more evil and more demonic, seeming to want to inflict some harm on Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her baby Lia. The scares get more dynamic and certain scenes do a great job at building up tension. In particular, there’s a scene in which Mia is messing around in the storage unit of her apartment complex that will probably stay with a few people.

What shocked me the most about this movie though, is that Annabelle Wallis does a fantastic job in channeling Mia Farrow’s Rosemary’s Baby performance for her role as Mia. When Lia is born and the hauntings ramp up, Wallis puts out an amazing performance that we needed for the movie to work. It’s not so much just the fact that she clearly cares about her child, it’s that she portrays the flurry of emotions perfectly. She’s afraid, she’s angry, she’s confused, and she wants her baby to live. But at the same time we can see that she’s stuck not quite ready or willing to accept what’s happening to her until its too late and she knows that almost no one can believe her. Much like Mia Farrow became this sort of unreliable character who rambled about evil and needing to protect her child, Wallis does the same and it makes certain scenes towards the end some of my favorite. There’s actually a rather disturbing scene right in the climax that will have most people reeling at the implications and the horror relies on the fact that Wallis has been portraying her character is such a harried way.

Alfre Woodard stands right next to Wallis in terms of fantastic acting and I wish her character had been used more. Woodard has one of the more emotional scenes in the film and I have no idea why this woman isn’t being handed more roles. Woodard plays the part of a bookstore owner who has answers for Mia in the form of letting her know exactly how she is in danger; and she even shows up during the finale to help Mia fight the evil at hand. Ward Horton does an alright job as Mia’s husband John and drops some great one liners, but his part is almost nonexistent save for being Mia’s husband and Lia’s father. It’s not that he’s not good, it’s just that he literally is only around to ask Mia what’s wrong and then dash off to work. That’s really the whole problem with the support cast. It was ultimately a good decision to put so much weight on the shoulders of Mia but the support cast (save for Woodard) feels stale in comparison. The priest is there to hammer in just how evil Annabelle is, the detective is there to drop a few clues about cults, and the neighbors exist to create a reason for Annabelle to haunt Mia and John instead of anyone else.

The other thing I had a problem with was the pacing. Certain hauntings and events are rushed through and once Mia finds out that demons are her problem, the movie begins wrapping it all up in seemingly the next half hour. To a degree I wish that less had been spent on setting the scene of an idyllic suburban family who ends up facing unknown horrors and more had been spent actually showing us those horrors, especially when Mia starts frantically figuring out how to fight them.

The film ultimately ends up being a pretty entertaining movie to see that is miles better than the majority of recent horror to come through. It’s admittedly not as good as The Conjuring but with a complete new crew of people, it’s expected. While part of me wishes they had stuck to the actual story of Annabelle (because really, it’s creepy as hell and worth looking up) the film ends up being a pretty good film about demons that doesn’t incorporate the loads of gore we’ve been accustomed to. It instead feels more like a psychological thriller with very few special effects and some pretty good tense scenes overall.

This is the real doll. There's a neat cameo at the end to keep an eye out for.

This is the real doll. There’s a neat cameo at the end to keep an eye out for.

 

Side note: While this has nothing to do with the film itself, fans who want to actually experience it may want to avoid the opening weekend crowd or even the Halloween crowd. The crowd on opening night was absolutely horrible and full of teens who were more interested in talking during the film, texting, laughing at inappropriate moments, and discussing how they should’ve gone somewhere else for the night. This is the second time I’ve had this happen during a horror film showing in theaters and I’m beginning to think it has less to do with it just being a poor crowd and more to do with the fact that horror films are PG-13 and aimed at teens. Unless you’re going for a group outing, stick to early matinees, weekdays, or wait a few weeks for the crowds to die down.


About the Author

Kierra Prince

Was born with a controller in her hand. Fan of all things nerdy and has a tremendous amount of love for RPG's, anime, and anything horror. She secretly wishes to be a mash-up of Catwoman and Sailor Moon.