Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Philippa Anne Coulthard, Grace Fulton, Lou Lou Safran, Samara Lee, Tayler Buck, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto
Release Date: August 11th, 2017
Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to the 20014 hit Annabelle and exists in the same universe as the Conjuring franchise. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t stand out on its own.
It focuses on the creation of Annabelle, a possessed doll that was housed in the Warrens’ basement during the Conjuring. Like its predecessors in this ongoing franchise, this prequel rises above typical horror fare.
The feature starts with a doll-maker crafting one of his creations. Anthony LaPaglia plays Samuel Mullins, a Church-goer who successfully creates intricate dolls by hand. He and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) are happy until a tragic accident takes their beloved young daughter Annabelle away from them.
Twelve years later, the couple — who are still haunted by that tragedy — invite the residents of a local orphanage into their home. Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) is the caretaker of the girls and moves in with them. The elaborate house — which has a locked room upstairs and the bedridden Esther hidden away in a bedroom downstairs — already seems mysterious.
Before long, crippled orphan Janice (Talitha Bateman) begins receiving cryptic notes that are oddly reminiscent of the ones Annabelle once wrote to her father. These notes lead her down a dangerous path.
The concept may sound familiar but director David F. Sandberg crafts a unique world here that seldom settles for simple scares. An early sequence showing Janice’s exploration of Annabelle’s bedroom is a prime example of that. The room is full of scary elements but Sandberg pauses as the tension builds. Instead of ending with a quick scare moment, Janice slowly makes her way around the area with the music receding into the background.
Audiences don’t know when the scene will end or how and he takes his time capturing the intricacies of Annabelle’s abandoned room.
In terms of stage-setting, Sandberg and writer Gary Dauberman also take advantage of the film’s setting — an older farm house — to craft scares in different environments. Annabelle isn’t the only scary element of the home. There are frights to be found in the barn, in the bedrooms and on the staircase, where a stair lift helps Janice maneuver between the floors.
Christianity plays a major role in the story as well with religious symbols throughout the home. Charlotte and the orphans are shown praying and Janice even takes time for a confession early on. That concept makes the battle between good and evil here even more prevalent. This is a story about a demon that takes many forms and a couple who are haunted by their inability to accept their daughter’s tragic death.
Annabelle: Creation is part of an ongoing franchise but the story here feels different than its predecessors. Showing the roots of this character but not being restrained by simply telling the story of a cursed doll, the filmmakers craft a scary story about bad decisions that lead to horrific consequences. The film ends with a reference to the beginnings of Annabelle but this story stands alone as a well-crafted horror feature that never looks down at its audience.
Review by: John Hanlon