Samuel Mullins worked as a toy-maker, and his specialty was crafting custom dolls. He worked from a shop situated in a building that lay adjacent to the home he shared with his wife Esther and their young daughter, Annabelle. One of his creations was a very distinctive looking doll, which was intended to be a limited edition of only 100. However, following the tragic death of young Annabelle, in a tragic accident, only one of these dolls would ever exist – the one he completed just prior to her death.
Fast forward 12 years, as we join a group of orphaned girls accompanied by a nun, who are traveling to their new accommodations. The orphanage they previously called home has closed and now Samuel and his wife Esther, who is now a bed ridden invalid, are offering the displaced young women lodgings in their spacious, secluded farm house. Prior to their guests’ arrival, the house was filled with very little else other than sorrow and dark secrets.
With new life in abundance within the walls of this old farm house, it isn’t long before the girls experience strange occurrences in their new digs. And before long the new tenants will start to be victimized by an evil force that Mr. and Mrs. Mullins have tried to keep vigilantly locked away for years.
David F. Sandberg was entrusted with the directorial duties for Annabelle’s origin story following the success of his feature debut, Lights Out. Working from a script written by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote the script for the first Annabelle film, Sandberg displayed a directorial style that fits well into the grand scheme of the Conjjuring universe. The story that Dauberman crafted for this film feels more connected to the Conjuring franchise than his previous effort, and for reasons other than just the Annabelle doll and the ending of the film. What do I mean? You’ll just have to pay close attention to the film, and you’ll understand.
Also, the characters were well written and had an appropriate amount of development to help build the relationships that exist between them. Specifically the one between the characters of Linda and Janice, who actually display more of a tight sisterly bond rather than that of of your average pair of friends.
Scare tactics similar to those used in the original Annabelle were used here, but this time around they’ve been perfected as to make the horror more intense. They might hit you with a jump scare, but rather than letting viewers recover, they sustain the tension and build on it in order to push the audience right to the ragged edge. Sometimes the characters ar privy to the presence of something and sometimes they have NO clue something is lurking about…but the audience does, and that creates real tension and terrifying anticipation. And the whole idea that daylight means everything is safe and secure, goes right out the fucking window. I personally love it when a horror film instills the harsh truth that horrific evil shit can occur, even in the light of day. Of course, when it’s children that are the target of such an evil entity, it really heightens the terror.
As far as the performances go, everyone did very well. However, there were three that rose above all the others. Talitha Bateman as Janice and Lulu Wilson as Linda, showed great chemistry and played incredibly well off of each other. Even in moments when they weren’t featured together, both girls still showed they have impressive chops for such young actresses. The terror these young ladies emulated was palpable and chill inducing, especially with Janice being continually tormented and Linda not knowing how exactly to help her best friend. Then there’s Stephanie Sigman’s fantastic portrayal of Sister Charlotte. She lends Charlotte a great deal of sweetness and compassion, but she is in no way a pushover. Despite her kindness, Sigman lets it be known that Charlotte is still an intelligent, capable and savvy woman, who knows the kind of machinations young women get up to. But we must certainly not ignore the fine performances given in support by the likes of Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard, LouLou Safra, Taylor Buck, Samara Lee and of course Joseph Bishara as the “Annabelle Demon”. Because even the strongest lead performances can be or not without a proper foundation built by a supporting cast.
Visually, the film looked fantastic. The use of darkness and shadow works phenomenally well for such a film, as it is sometimes more terrifying not being able to see a malevolent presence than it is having the visage of a demon right in front of you. It plays on audience fear of not knowing what lingers in the dark spaces where we can’t see, and the dread that results as one’s imagination runs amok with the possibilities. Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, whose resume in the genre speaks volumes on its own (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors, The Crazies, Maniac, Silent Hill: Revelation), yet again creates a beautifully shot film with his masterful camera movement, framing and composition. Oh, he was also the cinematographer on another upcoming film in the Conjuring franchise, The Nun…so there’s little doubt it will look superb. There’s also the meticulous attention to detail in creating a story that starts in 1945 and then jumps 12 years ahead to 1957, as production designer Jennifer Spence gave the film an appropriate vintage feel.
But let’s not forget the importance of sound and a good soundtrack. the sound design worked in such a way that even the most benign background noise could put one on edge or at the very least make viewers feel ill at ease. And nothing can stand those hairs on the back of an audience member’s neck quicker than the scratch and guttural demonic noises emanating from out of the darkness. Couple that with Benjamin Wallfisch’s eerie score, and you get a nightmarish audible landscape. Unlike Joseph Bishara’s soundtrack for the first Annabelle film, which utilized rhythmic screaming and scratching of string instruments to create a terrifying and unsettling ambient backdrop, Wallfisch incorporated similar sound elements over a more traditional, yet equally macabre, musical score.
You know what? I’m going to stop before I just say, “the hell with it” and end up ruining everything for you, my Little Monsters. I guess it goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The Conjuring, and all of the films that have branched off from it, have been some of my favorite additions to the horror genre over the last few years. And this film in particular just placed another important piece into that cinematic puzzle. These films delve into those places where absolute unrelenting fear lurks. The places that are too dark for us to see the danger waiting, even though we can here it scratching and growling. They also bring us face to face with images of nightmarish visions that we often conjure in our worst nightmares.
Annabelle: Creation open’s nationwide tonight…GO. SEE. IT!!! 8 / 10