To the best of my knowledge, Annabelle: Creation is the first prequel of a prequel based off an opening scene of another movie. And being that it’s a prequel to a horror flick that was poorly received, Annabelle: Creation was pretty much destined to be a critical failure from the get-go. However, director David Sandberg (Lights Out) and producer James Wan (The Conjuring and Insidious) were fully prepared to go against the odds, turning out a flawed, yet entertaining movie.
The film follows a nun (Stephanie Sigman) and six orphaned girls, who move into a farmhouse owned by a mysterious former doll maker named Sam Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia). Strange events begin to unfold soon after moving into the house, as one of the girls sneaks into a forbidden room previously occupied by the daughter of Mr. Mullins. There, the girl finds a porcelain doll that seems to have a life on its own, as it begins to scare and terrorize the orphans.
From his previous work on the 2016 horror flick Lights Out, its clearly evident that David Sandberg has a knack for crafting and executing a scary scene. In Annabelle: Creation, I felt that his talent was able to shine through, at least in some respects. The camera placement, pacing, and convincing acting aided Sandberg in scaring the audience on many occasions. Sadly, a lot of these frightening moments are followed up by unrelated scenes, which made a lot of the film feel poorly integrated.
I felt that many of the creative choices made in Annabelle: Creation didn’t quite fit this story, as if the filmmakers were trying too hard to emulate the style of The Conjuring. Take the numerous themes of Christianity for example, which are seen across many of James Wan’s productions. Christian themes and symbols are frequently discussed and seen all over this film, yet they never play into a deeper meaning or context. In The Conjuring these themes made sense, as it all played into the central message of the film, that the character’s religious beliefs would help them prevail over evil. In this, the Christian symbols are present for no reason other than to draw parallels to The Conjuring.
Even some of the horror movie logic doesn’t flow very well, with Annabelle often disregarding its own established rules. Even near the third act of the film the evil doll/demon would begin exhibiting powers and characteristics not yet introduced, as if they didn’t have a clear idea of what this evil entity was going to be. Usually something like this would just be a minor nitpick, however Annabelle takes it so far that the audience got tired of suspending their disbelief. There were points where the audience would audibly groan or question why certain things happened, or why a character would behave so irrationally. It was at these moments that I stopped taking the film seriously and just enjoyed it purely for the schlock factor.
I highly respect what Sandberg and Wan attempted to do with Annabelle: Creation, and in some areas, they were pretty successful. Whether the film was being serious and scary, or just complete schlock, I was entertained the whole way through. The great use of an eerie film location, compounded with the effective filmmaking techniques, made for a pretty terrifying atmosphere. I’m sure the average moviegoer would be able to overlook the numerous flaws in this picture and enjoy it as a solid, conventional horror film.
The Verdict: C+