Release Date: Oct. 3, 2014
Running Time: 99 minutes
Remember the creepy doll Annabelle from The Conjuring, the one a demon uses as a conduit to procure its owner’s soul? It’s back in the appropriately titled Annabelle, a Conjuring spin-off prequel that reveals how the demon came to attach itself to the doll. Annabelle begins with the scene from The Conjuring of the nurse telling paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren that the doll’s terrorizing her and her roommates. Jump back a year, and Annabelle is in the possession of expecting couple Mia and Ward Gordon (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton). Their troubles begin when their next-door neighbors are murdered by their estranged daughter as part of a Satanic ritual. She breaks into the Gordon’s house, wounds Mia, and kills herself while clutching Annabelle. Things then start to go bump in the night, forcing the Gordons to move to an apartment following the birth of their daughter Leah. The evil, though, has followed them to their new home. By relocating the spooky goings on to an apartment, and invoking the memory of the Manson Family, Annabelle director John R. Leonetti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman intentionally conjure up the spirit of Rosemary’s Baby. At the very least, this means Annabelle isn’t a de facto remake of The Conjuring, a ghost story in the tradition of The Amityville Horror. Leonetti’s a veteran cinematographer who’s worked on many of the chillers by The Conjuring director James Wan, which ensures Annabelle maintains the same spare look, eerie tone, and deliberate pacing as its harrowing predecessor. As a director, Leonetti isn’t quite as accomplished as Wan—he previously directed Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2—and too often it shows. Leonetti’s squeezes some effective scares out of Mia’s encounters with the doll and the demon, most notably during the final 30 minutes of Annabelle when Mia’s trapped alone in the apartment building, fighting for her life and the soul of her baby. There are times, though, when Leonetti either isn’t trying very hard or doesn’t possess the same ability to make something out of nothing that Wan has. At one point, Mia is in the basement when a baby carriage is presumably pushed into the frame by a crewmember. Not very frightening. Nor are the countless shots of Annabelle sitting on a shelf or in a rocking chair. As Mia, one half of the whitest couple seen on screen in decades, The Tudors’ Annabelle Wallis ably conveys the fears and concerns a new mother harbors for the safety of her child. Ward Horton, though, is given nothing to do as the loving and protective John—he’s always some place else when Mia comes into harm’s way. Annabelle treats Tony Amendola and Alfre Woodward with the respect they deserve, allowing them to turn in solid supporting performances in pivotal roles as the Gordons’ priest and their new neighbor, respectively. Of course, the most important character in Annabelle is the porcelain doll with the unsettling smile. A self-contained prequel that more than justifies its existence, Annabelle fuels speculation that the doll will enjoy greater prominence in next fall’s sequel to The Conjuring. Annabelle isn’t Chucky by no stretch of the imagination, but this prequel shows she’s somewhat of a force to be reckoned with.
Aired: Oct. 3, 2014
Web site: http://annabellemovie.com/