Horror, it’s a genre that has its fair share of duds but in recent years it has had a resurgence in popularity and more importantly in quality. This is down to creatives like James Wan with his Conjuring series of films, and one of the byproducts of those films was a creature we were introduced to in the first Conjuring. Its name was Annabelle and it was a demonic doll that had a horrifying history behind it. The intrigue behind the doll was so high that a film was made and it received generally mixed reviews but like all great, and bad, horror films there is always a sequel and with Warner Bros. building a Conjuring shared cinematic universe it seemed inevitable we’d return to Annabelle. This brings us to Annabelle: Creation the origin story of the doll that supposedly houses a demon.
Annabelle: Creation opens with happy family The Mullins, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) is a doll maker with his loving wife Esther (Miranda Otto) and daughter “Bee” (Samara Lee). Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and Bee is taken from the family. Fast forward 12 years later and the Mullins household is now an orphanage and the Mullins seem like a husk of their former selves after the loss of their daughter. It is here we are introduced to Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson) two best friends heading to the new orphanage waiting for the day they’ll be adopted, hopefully together. When they all meet Mr Mullins he explains some of the rules of the house: don’t bother Mrs Mullins, the television doesn’t work, and don’t enter the locked room. One night though Janice heads into the room and she finds a doll.
Annabelle: Creation is a deeply menacing film and the reason being is that you care for the well-being of the protagonists of the story. Janice is a sympathetic character and her journey throughout the film is harrowing. From the shunning she receives from the other girls to the eventual horror of the doll you’re constantly worried for Janice and you hope she’ll make it out of this alive. Talitha Bateman is a young actor, only 15, and already she shows incredible range in this role and I believe Annabelle: Creation wouldn’t have worked so well if she wasn’t in it. Her partner in crime Linda (Wilson) is also an engaging character, having some of the technically interesting scenes in the film. One standout is when she is under the stairs while playing hide and seek with the other girls, this particular scene scared the crap out of me because of the combination of the pitch perfect acting and visual choices director David F. Sandberg chose.
On the technical side of Annabelle: Creation there is a lot to enjoy, from the design of the horror elements to the choice in sound design there is a lot to love in this film. The tension is always high when it needs to be but the way the score is designed for the film you’re never sure if the characters are safe from whatever is attacking them and that is exactly what you want from a horror film especially one that is part of a shared cinematic universe. On that note there are some negatives, there is a point in the film where we are reminded that this is part of the Conjuring universe and when it happens there is no subtlety, there is no nuance and it takes you right out of the film. It didn’t need to happen or at the very least it needed to be handled with a much more gentle hand. There is also a sense of predictability with some of the scares in the film, characters will point out something and you will know almost immediately simply from common knowledge that certain set pieces will be transformed into horror moments.
Ultimately Annabelle: Creation grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s intense, at times deeply horrifying and with brilliant performances from two young leads, it’s a spectacular horror.