Written by Edward Jones: Student Pages Sub-Editor & Creative Writer
The movie Annabelle should have been.
2014’s spinoff of James Wan’s The Conjuring was received pretty poorly by the horror community. For the most part, the movie was an uninspired, paint-by-numbers horror flick that retained little of the mastery of its source material. But New Line Cinema have taken a second swing at the Annabelle story with Lights Out‘s David F. Sandberg in the director’s chair.
Right off the bat, Annabelle: Creation is worlds better than its predecessor. It fixes almost everything that was wrong with the original, and takes cues from both Conjuring movies, resulting in one of the better horror movies you’ll see this year.
The first thing that Creation gets right is the story. Too many horror movies concern themselves with making the audience jump and creating creepy imagery, and completely neglect the plot. Creation brings a host of well-rounded characters, which the audience quickly empathise with. The scares are not tangential to the characterisation but rather symbiotic with it.
The story, set before the events of the first movie, focuses on a nun, a priest, and six orphans who are relocated to the home of a dollmaker and his wife who lost their own daughter in a tragic accident. But they soon realise that the presence of their daughter lingers in the house.
The perspective stays largely with one character for a period, before shifting to another, allowing an intimate relationship with the audience and the character’s fears and insecurities. For instance, Bee (Samara Lee) struggles to walk and cannot play with the other children so is confined to isolation for a lot of the movie. But David F. Sandberg and writer Gary Dauberman perfectly work this into the horror elements. As soon as the stair lift appeared on-screen, I couldn’t wait to see the horror they would create with it, and I was not disappointed. Horror is a genre so plagued by clichés that a good movie needs a fresh source for its scares, and Annabelle: Creation effortlessly finds its niche. The shifting perspective, like chapters of a book, constantly offers new ways to scare the audience and develop the characters at the same time.
The acting was exceptional from most of the cast. The youngest girls Bee and Linda (Lulu Wilson) deserve particular recognition because convincing child actors are so rare, especially in the horror genre, but Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia also gave stellar performances as the dollmaker and wife.
The plot was as fresh as contemporary horror can be, and leads perfectly into the first Annabelle movie. I don’t often say this, but I would be interested to see a third movie lead into the first Conjuring movie and explore the Warren’s relationship with the doll. Considering the post-credits scenes, this isn’t unlikely. It also gave a nod to the nun from The Conjuring, which has been confirmed as another spinoff movie, written by Creation’s Gary Dauberman, and starring Vera Farmiga’s sister, Taissa.
Overall, Annabelle: Creation is a solid horror movie that far exceeds the expectations set by its predecessor, and ultimately instils new life and hope into the wider Conjuring universe. It doesn’t quite hold up against the Conjuring movies themselves, but very few can. If you’re a horror fan, you won’t want to miss this.