Ahahahahahahaha! I’m glad I didn’t just fork over the best part of £10 (that’s $16 to my American friends) for that!
OK, it actually wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, and it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but COME. ON! To be fair, I thought The Conjuring was pretty crap so there was a chance I’d hate this, but I also thought that Annabelle was the scariest thing about that film, so this could’ve worked…
It is billed as the origin story for the creepy doll from The Conjuring, and I suppose it does answer the question of how she became evil/possessed but it didn’t really do it in enough detail for my liking. SPOILER ALERT I’d have liked to have seen something of the human Annabelle, and her actions, in order to get a better understanding. We learn virtually nothing about the cult who instigated all this, and considering how long the film takes to get going, and also considering the whole film is providing back story to another story, you’d think they could take some time to cover this, simply by cutting out some of the bits where NOTHING HAPPENS. SPOILER ENDS.
Anyway, the basic premise is that the devil doll is given to a woman, in the 1960s, by her medical student husband as a gift. Now, I’d have politely declined such a terrifying gift (possession or no) but she seems chuffed. Then there’s a ‘horrible incident’ and the doll becomes possessed or something, and from here there are some weird happenings that mostly only the wife sees. It doesn’t help that they have a new baby, and because this is the 1960s, she’s basically stuck indoors all day sewing and hearing strange noises. The husband thinks she’s losing it, which doesn’t help. In fact, it might have been a better story if this wasn’t a possession but a manifestation of a post-natal mental illness, but hey, it is what it is.
The action, such as it is, is so infrequent that if I’d been watching this at home, I definitely would’ve had one eye on the clock. There’s a whole long section at the start where NOTHING HAPPENS. Things do pick up, and there are some genuinely creepy moments, and a few decent jump scares but it isn’t enough. Especially when you think it only cost about $6.5m to make and made almost 10 times that much in the US alone, in just the first 10 days. They should be working harder to get hold of your hard-earned cash.
The box office success just goes to show that people are crying out for great horror films, but unfortunately this one is nothing more than not that bad. It’s just a shame that the studios have found such success sanitising the genre, squeezing out real scares in favour of bagging the lowest possible age rating, and opening it up to the largest possible audience, in order to boost their box office prospects.
Table9Mutant talks about this in her post about The House at the End of the Street, which suffers this exact problem, so please have a look if you have a minute. She also found a brilliant video posted on the same page, which looks at this problem and gives some great examples of the changes to US ratings over the years, and how films used to get away with a lot more than they do today.
Sorry, I went slightly off topic there, but you get the point. Anyway, Annabelle isn’t all bad, there is some nice period styling and Annabelle Wallis was good and very likeable as the lead. Unfortunately Alfre Woodard was under-used, I was distracted by how much the husband resembled Val Kilmer (before he ended up like this), the plot was weak, the pacing was patchy, to say the least and for the most part it just wasn’t scary. That last point is kind of a killer when it comes to horror films.