Review: ANNABELLE (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Review: ANNABELLE (2014)

2.5 stars
2.5 stars
ANNABELLE is technically proficient and has a few scary moments, but sadly ruined by weak story and dull performances.

Last year, THE CONJURING (read my review here) was director James Wan's finest hour to date. He certainly knows how to toy around with the old-fashioned supernatural horror genre and turned them into a frightening cinematic experience worth watching on the big screen. Of course, part of the movie's success wouldn't have worked if not for the masterful cinematography by John R. Leonetti. Now that James Wan has already gone to a different route with FAST & FURIOUS 7 (due on April 2015), John R. Leonetti is given a chance to direct a spin-off from THE CONJURING (with Wan remained as one of the producers here). The result is ANNABELLE, on which the titular porcelain doll made her first brief appearance in THE CONJURING. The doll is certainly creepy enough, and no doubt that stretching the potentially horrifying side of her origin story into a feature-length movie is a good idea. However, after all the hypes surrounding ANNABELLE, John R. Leonetti's first directorial effort since 2006's THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT II is fairly scary, but obviously not good enough to match alongside with THE CONJURING.


ANNABELLE centres around heavily pregnant Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her doctor husband John (Ward Horton), who are both expecting their first baby soon. One day, John bought her an antique porcelain doll as a present since he knows she has been looking all over the place to buy it. Then comes one gruesome night when two members of a satanic cult invaded their home and tries to attack Mia and John, but the cops arrive just in time to stop them. Even they are already dead, the satanic cult has somehow conjured something evil into the doll that John has bought earlier. After the horrifying incident, Mia and John decide to move to a new apartment in hope for a fresh start, but it doesn't take long before the ugly past comes haunting them again.

After working with James Wan as a cinematographer five times from 2007's DEAD SILENCE to 2013's INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, John R. Leonetti has certainly mastered a lot of techniques when comes to camerawork used in a supernatural horror movie. Together with the help of cinematographer James Kniest and editor Tom Elkins, Leonetti manages to create an effective sense of dread and foreboding atmosphere for the most part of the movie. Kudos also go to Joseph Bishara's suspenseful score as well as the excellent sound effect during the scary moments.

The brief but frightening moment where the little girl comes charging at the closing door, before she burst into the room as an evil grown woman.

While THE CONJURING is blessed with a top-notch cast (especially Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), the actors here turn out to be a polar opposite in ANNABELLE. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton may the looks of a charming middle-class couple, but their acting is pretty much mediocre that it's hard to invest in their characters emotionally. Horton, in particular, displays a wooden performance. Not even the presence of veteran actors Tony Amendola, who plays Father Perez and Alfre Woodard, who plays Mia and John's new neighbour, Evelyn can't do much with their underwritten characters.

Despite the interesting premise surrounding the origin of the titular doll as well as the satanic cult, Gary Dauberman's screenplay is full of tired cliches that we have seen countless times before from a supernatural horror genre. Frankly, I wouldn't mind if the story element is familiar as long as it manages to engage you in many ways but that is hardly the case for ANNABELLE.

As much as John R. Leonetti manages to ape the classic horror movie of the yesteryears with a certain degree of success, it's kind of pity that he still has to rely mostly on the same old jump scares to evoke an easy reaction from the audience.

However, the most disappointing of all is the lazily-constructed ending. For a supernatural horror movie like ANNABELLE, I would have expected the director would go all out for at least a satisfying payoff. Unfortunately, I was left dumbfounded when I saw how the movie ends in the way that left me shouting in my mind, "Is that all you got?!".


Although ANNABELLE fails to capitalize its full potential to become a worthy companion with THE CONJURING, this spin-off remains an adequate effort as a stand-alone movie.

* This review is written courtesy from Warner Bros Malaysia press screening * 

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