Tag Archives: Annabelle

Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Wow, it’s been a long time since my last movie review, and it’s not because I haven’t been going to the cinema. I’ve just been busy with work and, well, lazy.

Anyway, I’ve got a massive backlog now so I a bunch of reviews should be forthcoming. I’ve decided to start off with the films that have left the deepest impression on me as of late, and for some, it will be no surprise that I’m kicking things off with Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to the lacklustre 2014 doll horror Annabelle, which was itself a prequel/spin-off to The Conjuring.

I have to admit, I didn’t have high expectations going in. Commercial horror films are mostly bad these days with a few notable exceptions, and it is rare for a sequel to be better than its predecessor, especially in this genre. However, there was cause for optimism given that it’s directed by Lights Out filmmaker David F. Sandberg (I actually still have to review it!), and producer James Wan clearly still had enough confidence in the franchise to give the creepy doll another shot.

Set in 1943, Annabelle: Creation goes back to how the eponymous doll was created in the first place. Aussie Anthony LaPaglia plays a doll maker living in some rural place in America, while fellow Aussie Miranda Otto plays his wife. Years following a tragic accident, a bunch of orphaned girls (led by Ouija: Origin of Evil‘s Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman) and a nun (Stephanie Sigman) move into their house. And so the horror begins.

I’m not gonna lie: Annabelle: Creation scared the crap out of me. It’s actually quite a typical horror movie with the usual set-ups and jump scares, but as they say, it’s all in the execution. David S. Sandberg has proven himself to be a real talent in his sophomore effort, employing his full bag of tricks to deliver relentless scare after scare. There’s gore, but not too much, and there are horrific images and loud, thumping sounds and blaring music, but often the real terror comes from his use of silence and darkness — it’s what you can’t see that creates the tense atmosphere and sense of dread. I’m also glad that the film doesn’t show too much and it doesn’t show things too early. Sandberg deserves a lot of credit for his restraint and knowing just how to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

It’s not one of those horror movies that creeps into your core and keeps you up at night thinking about it like say The Exorcist. It also doesn’t have much depth or originality like say It Follows or Don’t Breathe. The performances are fantastic, with Lulu Wilson really standing out, though some of the lines they’re given don’t sound like they should be spoken by children their age. My biggest problem with it is that the script is quite poor and there are loads of problematic things in it that make very little sense — almost to the extent that it takes you out of the movie.

But as a popcorn horror flick, Annabelle: Creation definitely delivers. It doesn’t slow down once it gets going, and you could argue that it gets going right from the opening scene. I felt like it was one scare after another and I had no time to catch my breath throughout pretty much the entire 109-minute running time. Even though a lot of the set-ups were obvious and I knew I was just being manipulated into the next scare, I still had plenty of fun going along with the ride.

In all honesty, Annabelle: Creation is not a great movie and has too many flaws to count. But I watch horror movies to be scared, and pound for pound, scare for scare, it could very well be the most terrifying movie I’ll see this year.

4 stars out of 5

The Boy (2016)

the boy

There have been some surprisingly good horror movies in recent years amid the usual garbage, and at no time did I think The Boy would fall in the former category. Those lowered expectations also resulted in the movie not falling in the latter either. It’s basically an intriguing idea with some effective moments, but also a film that constantly struggles to stay afloat due to its ridiculousness.

Like other female stars from successful TV shows (eg, Rose Leslie, Natalie Mortimer, Sarah Wayne Callies), The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan finally gets her own horror vehicle as Greta, an American woman who heads all the way to England for a nanny gig so she can grab some cash and escape her past. Naturally, the job takes her to a massive old-fashioned mansion in a remote area, complete with creepy decor and paintings, and an elderly couple who are paying her handsomely to look after their young son, Brahms, so they can go on vacation. You already know this, of course, but Brahms is a creepy-ass looking doll made to look like a creepy-ass boy.

If you’ve seen any horror movie in your life, you’ll have a basic idea of what happens from here. Weird shit starts to happen and Greta starts questioning whether Brahms is really just a doll. At the same time we slowly get fed answers about why an old couple treats a doll like their son and what Greta is running from back home.

That said, there certainly are twists and turns to be enjoyed in The Boy, including those you might not necessarily expect and not when you might expect them. Director William Brent Bell, who previously gave us The Devil Inside, is a pretty skillful director who knows a thing or two about building a sense of dread, not showing audiences too much too soon, and using misdirection to throw audiences off track. To Bell’s credit, he doesn’t rely too much on cheap “boo” tactics, and as a result The Boy has the feel of a classier horror in the vein of something like The Conjuring, though I’m not suggesting that it is anywhere near as good.

The problem with The Boy, as you might expect, is keeping the tone serious enough despite the silly premise. There were times that I found myself chuckling at the situations, and I suspect Bell knew this was unavoidable. Watching this in a nearly empty cinema certainly helped the atmosphere, and I wonder if I would have had a different take had I watched the film at home on DVD.

Apart from a premise that constantly reminds you of how difficult it is to swallow, The Boy also has its fair share of nonsensical horror movie plot holes, inconsistencies and contrivances. It’s probably no worse than most horror movies these days, though for me they were noticeable enough to be a little irritating.

Kudos to Cohan for doing her best to keep a straight face. It’s not easy to make carrying a doll around scary,  but she certainly does the best she can with all the heavy breathing, screaming and nervous eye movements.

On the whole, The Boy is a passable attempt at creating scares out of a daft concept. Those who can’t take the premise seriously will hate it, but those who can should find it to be an above average horror experience. Personally, I liked what it was trying to achieve and its efforts to achieve it. As far as creepy doll movies go, it’s superior to 2014’s Conjuring prequel Annabelle.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Annabelle (2014)


In an era of crappy, derivative horror films, last year’s The Conjuring was a rare gem in the rough. Most people knew what they were in for — they just didn’t realize how effective it would be thanks to director James Wan’s big bag of tricks.

And so I was excited when I heard that they were going to make a prequel called Annabelle, named after the creepy doll seen briefly in The Conjuring. Haunted toys have been subjected to multiple film interpretations, and I was cautiously optimistic that the same crew from the conjuring would be able to deliver again.I was wrong.

Annabelle was nowhere  near as scary as the conjuring, nor was it anywhere close to being as well made. Instead of the definitive scary doll movie I had been hoping for, Annabelle ended up being yet another disappointment.

The film begins with a brief scene from the conjuring for taking us back to the 1970s, where we meet our lovely protagonists, pregnant young couple Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John Form (Ward Horton). For some inexplicable reason, John decides to get Mia the Annabelle doll to go along with her creepy doll collection (I mean seriously, have you seen the bloody thing?), and soon after that, a deranged woman from a Satanic cult decides to pass her soul into the doll shortly before her death. If you think that sounds familiar, it’s because the exact same scenario happens in Child’s Play, the original Chucky classic.

From there, the progression is fairly predictable — we start off with little things which then escalate, prompting the couple to seek outside counsel, eventually leading to a climatic finish. If you’ve seen it once you’ve seen them all.

None of the predictability would have mattered if Annabelle was genuinely frightening. I admit, expectations were probably unreasonably high after I saw the trailer, which scared the crap out of me. Sadly, the trailer pretty much spoiled all the truly scary parts of the film, and what was left over turned out to be a bore. Despite a running time of just 98 minutes, Annabelle felt surprisingly slow. Unlike The Conjuring, which gave us a fine blend of atmosphere and “boo!” moments, Annabelle was dominated by cheap scares and obvious tactics.

It would be a lie to say the film wasn’t scary at all, but I guess that’s what happens when you follow up one of James Wan’s best efforts with a career cinematographer like John R Leonetti. To be fair, Annabelle does have some stylish scenes and is by far Leonetti’s best film, though this is not difficult feat considering his other directorial credits are Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Buttlerfly Effect 2.

One of the other major problems with Annabelle is the acting. It would be nasty to suggest that the doll was the least wooden performer in the cast, but going from established Conjuring veterans like Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston to the likes to Wallis and Horton is a jarring experience.

Having said all that, Annabelle probably isn’t as bad as I’ve made it out to be. It’s disappointing because of heightened expectations, though compared to the vast majority of other trash out there, the film is actually better than most. It’s a shame there couldn’t have been more creativity with the script and better acting, but if you haven’t seen the trailer there might be just enough scares to justify giving the film a try.

2.5 stars out of 5

PS: For those wondering, Annabelle is even less of a true story than The Conjuring. Check out the real doll. If you’ve done any reading about Ed and Lorraine Warren, the ghostbuster couple from The Conjuring, you’ll know it’s likely a whole bunch of BS. Check out this article for more details.