Film review: ANNABELLE: CREATION, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Annabelle: Creation is the competently made but tepid origin story for the sinister doll that creeped the bejeezus out of everyone in the Conjuring movies. Set in three time periods but predominantly the 1950’s, the film features a group of orphaned girls who take up residence at the dilapidated farm house inhabited by grumpy, taciturn Mr Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) his mysterious wife (Miranda Otto) and an evil presence.

This very predictable film follows the typical haunted house template with an accumulation of strange events such as doors slamming shut by themselves which could be explained by earthly causes before the all-out supernatural frenzy.

Nearly every scare is signposted well in advance resulting in few genuine shocks; that’s despite the atomic bomb sound effect that accompanies each supposed fright. It doesn’t help that characters rarely react to these supposed horrors in the manner expected of a normal person; characters will see someone mutilated by a demon and then be perfectly calm five seconds later. The film also stretches credulity when innocent little kids calmly creep around dark, spooky rooms that not even Chuck Norris would enter. Consequently, the film lacks the threatening atmosphere and believability that made the Conjuring films so effective.

Director David F. Sandberg (who helmed last year’s vastly superior Lights Out) and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre give Annabelle: Creation a tele-movie blandness and lack of energy and tension.   At times they fashion some inventively strange and occasionally disconcerting scenes through odd camera angles but the film rarely gets the pulse racing.

The film also fails to create complete or sympathetic characters. The two young girls who are the focus of the evil supernatural attacks, Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson), look a little out of their depth and are unable to convey any palpable sense of horror. Linda’s reactions are occasionally a little comical like something out of a silent melodrama. Anthony LaPaglia is wasted here as he spends most of the film slouching and grumbling and never seems invested in the role. Miranda Otto evokes slivers of emotion as a grieving, slightly disturbed mother but her character is poorly developed.

Annabelle: Creation is by no means a turkey but it rarely succeeds as a supernatural horror film, lacks the brooding sense of dread and wonderfully effective period detail of the Conjuring films and doesn’t leave us eagerly anticipating the next Annabelle instalment.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Horror.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): David F Sandberg.

Release date: 10th August 2017.

Running time: 109 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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