Annabelle English Movie Review
It is hard enough to make a successful original horror film. People walk into a theater almost demanding to be scared, like it is their birthright. But at the same time, they have a compulsive need to put on a brave face and make fun of a horror movie, because being frightened is for pussies.
But even if by a freak of nature a horror film does get accepted and loved by the audience, you're just stacking the odds against yourself by making a remake/prequel/sequel/spin-off to it.
The Conjuring might just be the most beloved horror film of at least the past decade. Any movie that is even remotely related to it has to accomplish the Herculean task of overcoming the inevitably crushing comparisons with it. Annabelle is supposed to be kind of a quasi-prequel/spin-off to it. It aims to tell the story of origin of the creepy doll from The Conjuring.
It treads the path that has been successfully setup and utilized by director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring, Insidious Chapter 2; also a producer of Annabelle). It builds up slowly, taking its time wearing the viewers down, making them let their guards down, before unleashing thousands of horror-movie cliches. Creaking doors open and close by themselves with more precision than doors of the metro train. Tea pots whistle so loud, only dogs can hear them. Lights flicker, winds blow at hurricane speeds, radios turn to static.
The biggest problem with Annabelle is that the story of the doll isn't that much interesting at all. There's no great mystery to be solved, there's no great motivations behind the evil's actions and there are no characters to actually care about. You couldn't be less perturbed if the lead actress gets swallowed whole by the demon haunting her.
But despite not giving us any memorable characters, director John R. Leonetti does manage to build up some tension. By keeping the running time to a slim 1.5 hours, he never allows the film to get boring or seem like a drag. And to be fair to him, he does manage to conjure up a couple of scares that aren't liberally borrowed from better films of the past.
But he and writer Gauberman deserve the most credit for not resorting to an exorcism in the finale to resolve the conflict. Frankly, it requires superhuman abilities to be able to resist relying on the most cliched of all cliches, but they manage to keep their distance from it. They also manage to resist a surprise open-ending, which is so common now that it's hardly a surprise anymore. Instead, Annabelle ends where The Conjuring began.
Like most horror movies, the performances are mediocre and inconsistent at best. Annabelle Wallis, as Mia, looks attractive and performs reasonably well. But I wish I could say the same for the others. Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard and Tony Amendola are wooden at best and confused at worst. The dialogues sound like they've been written by someone who has never interacted with a real person before. The background music is loud enough to make your ears bleed.
In the end, Annabelle turns out to be better than you could've hoped for. It moves along seamlessly enough and ends before you can say "Boo!". You compare it to The Conjuring and you'll likely come out disappointed. You compare it to the recent Deliver Us From Evil, and you'll likely come out prancing like you've just defeated a demon. So, go for it if you're looking for a few decent scares.