Posted October 3, 2014 by Daniel Hodgson in
Annabelle is like so many sequels, coasting on the good-will of its predecessor.
Annabelle is a prequel to The Conjuring, an account of the origin story of the eponymous doll. It’s nothing new. If you’ve seen Child’s Play, it’s essentially the same thing. However, the film is minus the helmsmanship of James Wan, and the star-power of the original cast. Other than the doll itself, Annabelle has nothing in common with The Conjuring. Different writer, smaller stars, and a lesser-known director. Annabelle is like so many sequels, coasting on the good-will of its predecessor.
John (Ward Horton) brings a doll home to his pregnant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis). Soon after, cultists invade their home. They are dispatched by the police, but the blood of one of the intruders drips into the eye of the doll, who clutches it tightly as she dies.
From then on, strange things happen. A sewing machine turns on by itself. The kitchen oven turns on by itself. A record player…well, take a guess…
Eventually, Mia tires of the doll—which her husband bought at great expense—and asks John to throw it away because the intruder held it. Annabelle doesn’t like that, and sets their home on fire with Mia in it. To the film’s credit, it’s a tense scene. A pregnant woman trapped in a burning house, with a supernatural force that pulls her back in when she tries to escape. And the film is never this frightening again for the remaining hour of running time.
John and Mia move from Santa Monica to an apartment in Pasadena with their newborn baby. However, somehow, the doll follows them, and their nightmare continues.
From there, Annabelle follows the template of The Exorcist. A demon wants a child’s soul, and someone has to make a sacrifice, as Father Perez (Tony Amendola) foreshadowed in the film’s opening. Major Spoilers for this mediocre movie from here.
Evelyn (Alfre Woodard), an occult bookshop owner, befriends Mia, and happens to be at the apartment when the demon abducts the infant, and demands Mia’s soul in exchange for her baby. Evelyn sacrifices herself for Mia, condemning her soul to Hell forever, which is awfully nice of her to do for someone who’s little more than an acquaintance. Shouldn’t self-centered John be the one to sacrifice himself for his wife and child? The resolution, as-is, reeks of deus ex, as Mia and John do nothing to solve their own problem. This ending is a Screenwriting 101 no-no.
The relationship between Mia and John receives perfunctory development at best, and as a character, John is as insipid as celery. Annabelle is more interested in jump-scares—none of which are effective—than building its characters and telling a good story. There is a moment where Mia encounters two children in the apartment building, who leave creepy, premonitory pictures of her baby getting hit by a truck. Once the movie plays the trick out, the children are never seen again. It’s a minor flaw in a movie with major cracks. Like, why don’t they try to destroy the damn doll in the first place?