I was visiting my mom again and by now you should know what happens when I visit my mom. We go to the movies. I didn’t want to see Dracula: Untold because I hate movies that humanize Dracula and I already know the ending to Gone Girl so Annabelle it was.
Honestly, I had a problem with this movie from before it started and this is it.
When you have a killer doll that looks like that, there’s really nothing to build up to. She looks a little cleaner at the beginning but, she’s immediately incredibly threatening and creepy-looking. It’s hard to believe that anyone would find her lovable or want her in their house. You don’t really see her evolve, it’s just always “WHAM! LOOKAT THIS DOLL!” I know that James Wan likes to design creepy dolls but this is a real drawback for this movie.
The movie opens with the same scene from The Conjuring, where the nurses are telling the Warrens about the creepy doll, Annabelle. I was hoping Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson would reprise their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren but no such luck. John R. Leonetti, the cinematographer from The Conjuring took over the role of director for this movie, while James Wan stepped back as producer. The footage from the beginning looks very distinct from the way the rest of the movie looks, that’s a very jarring way to start a movie.
Anyway, Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton star as newlyweds Mia and John Form.
John buys Mia the Annabelle doll. She seems perfectly normal, just hideous. Mia puts Annabelle in the nursery for the baby they’re expecting because it’s never too soon to emotionally scar your child. John and Mia are woken up by a commotion from next door. It turns out the neighbor’s estranged hippie daughter (Tree O’Toole) is back and feeling murder-y. She and her boyfriend kill her parents and try to kill Mia before hippy daughter kills herself in the nursery while holding the doll.
Oh, what’s hippie daughter’s real name? Annabelle Higgins! SIGNIFICANT.
The attack leaves Mia on bed rest. Creepy things start to happen around the house. This culminates with evil doll forces setting a tin of Jiffy Pop on fire and pulling Mia towards the fire.
She escapes and gives birth to a daughter. Mia and John decide to leave the house and move into a less haunted apartment. But ghosty stuff keeps happening at the apartment too. The homicide detective investigating their neighbors’ murder tells Mia that Annabelle and her boyfriend were part of a satanic cult. Lurking neighbor Evelyn (An underutilized Alfre Woodard) and Father Perez (Tony Amendola) help Mia realize that the cultists were trying to summon a demon with the promise of a soul. There’s a minor scuffle, some heavy-handed suicide talk, and boom, the movie’s over.
I guess we should all be happy that a movie set in the sixties didn’t open with “Fortunate Son?” Let’s take a moment to be thankful for that.
This movie is just the definition of missed potential. Here’s a picture of the “real” Annabelle–I put real in quotes because Lorraine Warren seems to believe that Annabelle is really haunted by a demon but I don’t believe it’s possessed.
That’s a creepy doll. That’s a doll you can see starting off benign but becoming increasingly malevolent.
Ultimately, the movie just doesn’t have a lot of scares. The only sequence I really liked was when Mia was in the basement storage unit of her apartment. There’s genuine creepiness and tension as Mia’s stuck between something in the dark and an elevator that won’t work. Even that moment is ruined when you see that the demon looks like some guy dressed as Pan for Burning Man.
The story managed to be equal parts tedious and boring. I didn’t really care about any of the characters. There’s nothing really established about Mia and John except for their blandness. They barely even fight about the paranormal activity in their house. And Evelyn is basically a Magical Negro who exists to impart wisdom to the suffering white woman and then die.
This movie felt like a cheap grab for money, which it probably was considering that there’s the possibility for yet another Annabelle movie and The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist.
Honestly, I’d even take Dolly Dearest over this. At least Dolly Dearest has this!