The first spin-off movie of a successful horror film universe. The conjuring series has followed the footsteps of the Marvel movies to make spin-offs, leading to bigger and darker universe. I would have completely lost faith in the franchise altogether if Annabelle was the first movie I watched.
Annabelle follows the scary doll we had the privilege of meeting at the beginning of the conjuring. Mia (Annabelle Wallis) is expecting a child with her husband (Ward Horton) and she lives next door to a couple whose daughter “Annabelle” Higgins ran away to join a cult. Annabelle returns with her boyfriends and cult members to kill her parents and attacks Mia. Later, she sacrifices herself with the doll, which was gifted by Mia’s husband, in her hand. Mia is injured during the fight but she and the baby were perfectly safe. After giving birth, Mia starts facing paranormal occurrences and finds out that her child is in danger.
When I watched Conjuring for the first time I knew that there is hope for the doll that is introduced and there is. Unfortunately, it is not outlined well enough. Annabelle as a film met with polarising reactions. People either loved it or hated it. Just like how DC films post-Nolan (except wonder woman) faced. The filmmakers are trying to tell a story but it is not effective enough. The reason is undoubtedly Wallis’s unenthusiastic performance. Wallis’s career thrived after this film though it fell flat with her involvement in the Mummy reboot, which bombed at box office. I found her to be very plain, monotonous, and her emotional scenes looked effortful. But the one thing she succeeded is in terms of being a “face” for the movie. People will think about her after watching this film. She looks good and charismatic enough for still shots but when she delivers a dialogue or emotion then the effect is reversed. Ward Horton is forgettable and the only interesting character Father Mendez (Tony Amendola) did not get the time he deserved, except for an effective jump scare scene. Alfre Woodard is reduced to a token character despite having the scope. And her involvement in the climax is more laughable than intriguing. It is the only reason why she is in it and the way black people are stereotyped in Horror films, Annabelle only added insult to the injury. That’s what the film ended up doing, stereotyping characters based on the roles they do. Notably Ward Horton’s role as a husband. He is a workaholic who didn’t believe his wife yet for some reason, he is on knees when challenged.
One of the things I liked about Ed and Lorraine’s relationship is the commensalism. They both benefit from their relationship. They share their strength and weakness. Hollywood could depict the husband and wife relationship as something that doesn’t include “misunderstanding”, a wife who goes crazy or a husband who is a wuss.
One thing the film succeeded at is in the cinematography. Cinematography made Annabelle look creepy as a doll, while it was being used as a conduit by the demon. The scene where Leah’s baby carriage is hit by the truck is shot well. The camera focussed on Mia’s face while she faces the entity. The carriage rolls towards the road and get hit by the truck. We are convinced that the baby is the in the truck until the very next shot shows Leah in Mia’s arms. It is done well. Apart from that, the film is only filled with jumpscares and dark.
So… Annabelle is worth viewing once if you like horror films. If you don’t expect too much then you might enjoy it.