Can we talk about how bad “Annabelle” was?

Okay, first thing’s first: I love horror movies. I’m a big, big fan of the genre and try to see as many horror movies as I can throughout the year. But when you see so many movies in the same genre, a lot of its nuances start to get horribly redundant.

Take 2014’s Annabelle.

Back in 2013, horror fans were treated to a surprise with Insidious director James Wan’s The Conjuring. It went on to become one of the best-received horror movies of all time, garnering acclaim from fans and critics alike.

The hit featured a story about a possessed doll that was recently made into a horror movie of its own, Annabelle, which serves as a prequel to The Conjuring.

Annabelle tells the tale of a murderous girl named Annabelle Higgins, who, after having run off with a cult, returns to her home to kill her parents as part of a satanic ritual. When neighbours John and Mia Form intervene with the help of the police, however, Annabelle is shot dead, her spirit inhabiting a doll in the Form’s expected daughter’s bedroom. The movie discusses the hauntings that ensue following that incident.
Directed by John R. Leonetti and produced by James Wan, the movie adheres to Wan’s classic style of slow pace. However, Leonetti fails to create the chilling ambience the movie’s sequel so richly created in its build-up.
The premise of the movie, what with the addition of the cult factor, which has rarely been explored in horror movies lately, is promising, but the turns in the story leaves viewers with an unappealing experience.

Led by Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, and celebrated actress Alfre Woodard, the characters utterly fail at sustaining a connection with the audience.

Wallis delivers a good enough performance as Mia, a mother traumatized by the incident with Annabelle Higgins and fearful for the life of her newborn daughter, Leah. That said, I was dumbstruck by some of her actions. Ya benti, you know your  daughter is being haunted by a demon whose nature is still unclear, you don’t fucking leave her alone 9 floors up. Mother of the year right there.
Moving on, Horton’s portrayal of John, a supportive husband, bears nothing memorable or particularly striking. He might as well have been played by any other up-and-coming actor in the business.
The true shocker is the let-down of Woodard’s performance. The Academy Award-nominated, multi-Emmy Award winning actress utterly fails at delivering a believable performance, save for one emotional scene where her talents shine. She portrays Evelyn, the owner of a local bookstore, later a friend of Mia’s.

Woodard also had to utter the most idiotic statements at the worst of times, which lessens the blame from her, but emphasizes the poorly-developed character she played and the even more lackluster script. During a scene where Mia is quite obviously being tortured behind a locked door, what with her constant shrieking, Evelyn calmly knocks on the door, asking what is wrong in honest wonder. 

The friendship between Mia and Evelyn seems rather forced. In some scenes, where viewers went as far as questioning whether Evelyn was at all fond of Mia, the former seems to selfishly put her own well-being before that of her own—that of the baby, even. In a scene, and this had to be my favourite thing about the movie (baby Leah comes a close second though), While Mia and Evelyn search for a missing Leah (at the hands of the demon), Evelyn tells Mia to leave. “We’ll come back for it” she says of baby Leah.

Come back for it? Is it an earring you can retrieve later? No. Is it a hairbrush you can replace? No. Is it a baby, much like the one you lost which would lead me to assume that you’d fight till death for someone else’s? Bingo. Damn. So much stupid in four little words.
Speaking of stupid, what’s the point in having a creepy-ass doll in the movie if it doesn’t do anything. Ever. Guys, seriously, I was waiting for it to blink, to do something, anything, but nada. I shit you not, the most this wooden princess does is slightly tilt to its right. Scary.

On a lighter note, Wan and Leonetti successfully include elements of mise-en-scene reminiscent of the 60s. The setting itself, including the costumes and props, fit well with the period the movie is set in. Elements of rhythmic sound also played a role in producing a well-received effect between sound and movement.

Overall, I’d sadly say that Annabelle is a poor prequel to The Conjuring. I’d also go as far as saying that it was one of the worst movies I saw in 2014. Would I recommend it? For laughs, maybe, but I can think of better ways for you to spend two hours.

RATING: 29/100

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Note: a slightly altered, much more civilized  version of this review can be found in AUB Outlook Newspaper here.

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