After the great success that The Conjuring received, it was only a matter of time before horror fans would see a sequel or two. Not only was The Conjuring 2 immediately announced, but news of a spin-off also came very shortly after the film’s initial release. That spin-off is John Leonetti’s Annabelle.
A couple begins to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.
Anyone who heads into their viewing of Annabelle expecting what was seen in The Conjuring is going to be sorely disappointed. While it does make for a great companion piece, this film’s pacing is completely different and has a rather different atmosphere to it. It doesn’t take long for things to get a little hairy as the introduction of the titular doll and its demonic possession take place rather early on in the film, but for me, that’s about all the excitement this production offered. There were tons of spooky occurrences, but I never felt completely enveloped in the story, as I was hoping for.
I may underestimate the average horror fan, but it has been my experience that most film-goers will sum up a film simply by saying, “oh, that movie sucked,” or “that was awesome!” without giving any clear reason as to why they felt this way. I get the feeling that filmmakers tend to give their audience too much credit nowadays. Most of what can be appreciated about Annabelle are things that I think simply go unnoticed. Two specific examples that come to mind were actually brought to my attention after viewing the special features included on the Blu-ray disc of the film.
Director John Leonetti had a very specific vision for how he wanted to tell the story of this now iconic doll. This was told through various means, but perhaps most importantly, it was delivered through cinematography. While I appreciate his ability to film a rather lengthy scene in one camera shot, I feel as though most people just don’t care about this kind of stuff. I could be wrong, but even I tend to ignore things of this nature when trying to remain ‘in the moment,’ while watching my favorite horror flick. The times in which I sit down and watch a film for reviewing purposes, I do set my mind in a more critical mode, but even then, it is hard for me to take things like having no camera cuts into consideration when deciding whether a film is enjoyable or not. Things of this nature certainly help, but they just don’t seem to make or break the film.
Another one of Annabelle’s greatest strengths is also one that I feel could go unnoticed. Without spoiling it too much, there is a demonic presence in the film represented by a charred, pitch black figure. This demon is almost always hidden in the shadows, seen from a distance, or only on camera for a split-second, never allowing the audience to get a crystal clear look at him. While this is necessary for the character to remain menacing, it doesn’t allow the audience to really appreciate the amazing work executed by the guys at KNB effects studio. KNB have done amazing work on horror [and other] films for decades now and it’s a shame that their work may be missed all together, considering how many grueling hours it takes to not only design and fabricate the material used for the prosthetics, but to also apply it to the performer, in this case, Joseph Bishara.
The acting was flawless, the production value was top-notch, and knowing that the film is based on true supernatural events is terrifying, but Annabelle just wasn’t as enjoyable as I expected. Let me know if I’m way off base here and tell me your thoughts in the comments below. This is one film I’d really love to talk about with other genre lovers. You can pick up a copy on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital from Warner Home Video this Tuesday, January 20.
I give this film 3 heart-shaped lockets out of 5.