First appearing in 2013’s excellent The Conjuring, the ‘Annabelle’ doll gets its own vehicle a little over a year later. Unsurprisingly, its a car crash of a horror with no survivors.
Set in 1969, the film follows John and Mia Form. Mia, who is heavily pregnant with her first child, is a collector of vintage dolls. After an argument, John presents his wife with a doll – one that she has been looking for to complete her collection. That same night, their home is invaded by two satanic cult members, resulting in the death of the intruders. One of them, however, is found in the nursery holding the new doll. A single drop of blood later, and the doll becomes a demonic vessel that will stop at nothing to claim the soul of an innocent: namely the couple’s unborn child.
There’s no denying that the doll itself is creepy; its maniacal smile and wide-eyed glare produce chills every time she appears on screen. But there’s only so much horror that can be produced by an inanimate object. The majority of supernatural occurrences are your usual schtick — doors closing on their own, people getting dragged backwards by an invisible force, loud bangs from silence, etc. The ‘break in’ scene would have been much more effective if it hadn’t been used in its entirety for the films first trailer. One scene involving an elevator comes close to being memorable, but like the sequences before it, the payoff falls flat.
Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton (as Mia and John, respectively) perform admirably, if forgettable, as the tormented couple. Ward certainly looks the part of a late 1960’s man, while Annabelle (the actress, not the doll) only comes alive during scenes where her baby is in danger. Tony Amendola gives his all as the helpful priest, and Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard’s turn as the bookstore owner lives up to the first four letters of her surname.
Simply put, Annabelle is not scary. Sure, what is scary to one person may not be to another, but if you’ve watched any supernatural horror, you’ll know what to expect here. Unoriginality is rife, and atmosphere is non-existent. You’d be better just giving The Conjuring a re-watch instead.