Young couple Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) have the picture perfect life. John is a young doctor, working to save money for his wife and unborn child. They go to church, they live in a nice house in a good neighbourhood, and they are happily married. But when John and Mia’s neighbours are murdered by their estranged daughter Annabelle, who has returned home after running away to join a Satanist cult, the couple’s lives are turned upside down. Soon after this incident, strange things start happening to Mia. She’s seeing things, hearing things, and it all seems to be connected to one of the vintage dolls Mia likes to collect. After her daughter is born, Mia is terrified of bringing her child back into the home where these occurrences seem to be happening, so John throws the eerie doll away and moves his family to an apartment. But the trouble is only just beginning, following Mia wherever she goes.
The character of Annabelle was first introduced to audiences in The Conjuring (2013), on which Annabelle director John R. Leonetti worked as the cinematographer. In The Conjuring, the Annabelle doll was mentioned as one of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s previous cases, but now she is given a whole movie which delves into her back story, explaining how she came to be “possessed” in the first place. However, the issue with these two films sharing one of their story lines is that they will inevitably be compared to one another, and as The Conjuring became one of the most highly acclaimed and successful horror films of the past few years, this doesn’t bode well for Annabelle.
One of Annabelle‘s greatest achievements is that it is definitely scary. There is a good mix of pop-up scares and more subtle, permeating tension that keeps you in a constant state of uneasy suspense for the entire movie. Add a creepy doll into the mix and you’ve got yourself a pretty successful nightmare-maker. However, most of the scares rely too heavily on a sudden burst of loud music in the soundtrack to give you that frightened, jumpy feeling, rather than creating visual effects that are terrifying in their own right. Unfortunately, those scares that were cleverly created visually are mostly given away in the trailer, and knowing what to expect before it happens kind of defeats the purpose of a horror movie.
Personally, I found the character of Mia, the damsel in distress mother to whom most of the evil occurrences are directed at, isn’t likable enough for the audience to latch on to her and really care about what happens to her and her family. She is almost too sweet, too passive, and too terrified, to the point where she becomes borderline annoying. Performances given by the cast, including Alfre Woodard as Mia’s spiritual friend and Tony Amendola as the cookie cutter priest-character Father Perez, are underwhelming, however acting is rarely a top priority in horror flicks. More important is the story, and unfortunately Annabelle lacks originality and that extra bit of pzazz to really lift it above the other films of its genre.
Annabelle is great for a scare, but sadly lacks the original story line and believable characters that are needed to really make the horror hit home. It might give you nightmares for the next few days, but there is nothing here to stop this film from fading into the masses of similarly mediocre horror movies.
[youtube id=”iZUAu-loEsg” width=”620″ height=”360″]