For my reviews of the rest of The Conjuring universe films, click the following links:
- THE CONJURING (2013)
- THE CONJURING 2 (2016)
- ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017)
- THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)
- ANNABELLE COMES HOME (2019)
In commemoration of the upcoming film, THE NUN (2018), which is part of The Conjuring universe, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and just watch the only movie that I haven’t seen yet, which is the worst installment if current ratings and reviews are anything to go by.
Now, for those of you that don’t know, I’m a pretty avid fan of The Conjuring films, especially the core ones. I liked CREATION enough, and I can safely say that I’m fairly hyped for THE NUN. But I guess every shared-universe has at least one blemish, and this movie is that blemish on an otherwise solid franchise.
The story looks like it’s about this married couple that gets attacked by a crazed, murderous woman who was obsessed with a particularly creepy doll. She’s killed off and the family attempts to make a new life for themselves with their newborn child, but the creepy doll makes a reappearance. What starts as a harmless addition to the house, the family begins to experience supernatural threats.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Annabelle Wallis (TAG , THE MUMMY , GRIMSBY , and the upcoming BOSS LEVEL ), Ward Horton (ANNABELLE: CREATION), Tony Amendola (THE MEDDLER , and the upcoming SANTA FAKE ), and Alfre Woodard (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR , and upcoming films JUANITA  and THE LION KING ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have John R. Leonetti, known for PIRANHA 3D (2010) and MORTAL KOMBAT (1995). Penning the screenplay is Gary Dauberman, known for IT (2017), and the upcoming IT: CHAPTER TWO (2019). Composing the score is Joseph Bishara, known for INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY (2018), THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (2016), and upcoming films THE PRODIGY (2019) and THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019). The cinematographer is James Kniest, known for THE BYE BYE MAN (2017). Finally, the editor is Tom Elkins, known for FLATLINERS (2017) and INFERNO (2016).
Overall, bleh… it’s for the completionist in me.
This is my honest opinion of: ANNABELLE
Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) are a happily married, church-going couple expecting their first child soon. However, things take a tragic turn when their neighbors are murdered by their estranged daughter and boyfriend, who were part of a cult. Despite surviving the ordeal, Mia and John’s problems to begin to manifest in the form of supernatural occurrences.
Yup, it’s not good. This is definitely the weakest of The Conjuring films. Not sure how much I can talk about, but I’m going to give it a whack.
For one thing, the writing and directing is subpar, especially in the beginning during the home invasion scene involving the cultist daughter and her boyfriend. I mean, obviously screeching doors directly behind Mia and she doesn’t turn to acknowledge it? Come on, man, that’s just ass-lazy. The score was definitely out of control and ultimately hurt any chance of legit horror. When you see streams of blood against the wall, the score throws in a “CHUN.” Sure, I jumped, because that’s what anyone would do amidst prolonged silence being interrupted by a loud noise, but not because it’s legitimately scary. It’s strange because you can tell where some chill factors could have been effective. No sound and just letting a situation play out in front of the audience, make them uncomfortable in a good way, not an annoying way. But instead, we get something that any high school amateur with a camera could do.
To make matters worse, we have boring leads. Who exactly are Mia and John as characters? There’s nothing to them. They have no real personalities that make them interesting, other than… loving wife and husband. This sort of thing barely flies in soap operas, let alone a horror movie connected to franchise built on great characters. Because of this shortcoming, the movie as a whole is a dull outing.
And it’s only been recently that I’ve become a stickler for this kind of thing, but what the hell was taking this demon so long to get what it wants? Okay, so we learn that the demon wants a soul, either Leah’s or Mia’s. Fair enough, the antagonist has a goal. So… what is it doing in the mean time other than spooking the crap out of Mia? How does any of its hauntings get it any closer to its soul-collecting? The answer is, you guessed it, bad writing. Why not just take the baby, like it basically did, write on the walls and ceiling demanding what it wants, like it did, right from the get-go? What, was it too weak to make demands before? Did it need a stronger foothold in the house? None of this is made clear. Other demons of the franchise make it rather obvious what it wants most of the time and makes active attempts to achieve its own goals.
With all that said, I will give this movie a little bit of credit.
For one thing, and this is about as unbelievably refreshing as a movie can accomplish in this genre, the husband actually believes his hysterical wife. Keeping with the theme of the franchise as a whole, it never succumbs to the cliché of a hysterically frightened protagonist spending an hour of the movie’s runtime trying to convince unbelieving support characters that something is happening. As underwhelming as this movie gets, I applaud its ability to rise tropes that even better horror movies fail to do. I’m looking at you, HEREDITARY.
I also like how the demon is showcased in it’s earlier appearances. He’s kept in the dark in the background, not really doing anything, just barely able to made out, watching Mia, that shit is effective horror right there. Granted, the effect is lost when it quick cuts to its face, so I would have preferred it to unnaturally crawl toward her for a chase, but it’s better done than I think many people will give it credit for. And there’s some good effects and tricks of the camera. Like when the door slowly closes and the ghostly girl runs toward it, reappearing instantly in the room as an old woman, or whatever the hell that was. That was neatly done. As well as the moment when Annabelle the doll starts standing up, then floats in the air, and the camera slowly pans to the dolls left and you see a hint of the demon’s face. That was pretty fun too.
Overall, this movie is a pretty solid skip in this franchise. It’s not especially scary, is mostly dull and boring, stale characters, with the notable exception of Alfre Woodard’s Evelyn, but then again, Woodard has the Midas touch of turning shit to gold. But it’s not without it’s respectable choices, so I won’t sit here and say that it’s the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen. Not by a long shot. It may not be the worst horror movie, but it’s depressing to think that this is part of The Conjuring universe. Before The Conjuring, there was… disappointment and boredom.
My honest rating for ANNABELLE: a weak 3/5