Following the tragic death of their 7-year-old daughter (Samara Lee), the Mullins — Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther (Miranda Otto) — invites the nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and the orphans (including Talitha Bateman’s Janice and Lulu Wilson’s Linda) to live in their farmhouse that doubles as an orphanage. Then, things start to go wrong when Janice discovers the creepy Annabelle doll somewhere inside a room.
The first Annabelle, which itself a spin-off from The Conjuring, was sadly a half-baked horror movie with a few decent scares. With the original director John R. Leonetti out of the picture, Warner Bros. has made the right choice enlisting David F. Sandberg instead. Sandberg is, of course, the Swedish director best known for his last year’s feature-length debut Lights Out.
Now, instead of a sequel, Annabelle: Creation moves backwards in a prequel form by telling an origin story of how the possessed doll first came about. First of all, I would like to say the prequel is an improvement over the 2014 original. Viewing this from the visual perspective alone, Sandberg has done a good job creating a number of effective scares and suspense using the combination of lighting, sound (from loud to silence) and camera placements. Earlier in the movie, a scene as seemingly simple as a floating white sheet evokes enough chill and tension.
Sandberg also made good use of some of the household items including stair lift, bunk bed and dumbwaiter to generate scary moments with the help of Maxime Alexandre’s dread-inducing cinematography and Michel Aller’s sharp editing. No doubt that Sandberg knows a thing or two about practical effects. Too bad his decision to use lots of unconvincing CGI during the demon scene should have kept to a minimum instead.
The cast, especially Talitha Bateman as the polio-stricken Janice and Lulu Wilson as Janice’s best friend, Linda, are both decent enough. But the rest of the cast doesn’t get to do much to leave a lasting impression. Veteran actors Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia along with Stephanie Sigman’s Sister Charlotte are all sadly underutilised.
Gary Dauberman, who also penned the lacklustre first Annabelle, returns to write for the prequel and again… it falls short. In Annabelle: Creation, the plot is surprisingly paper-thin for an origin story. Sure, you do get the origin explained in the flashback but it was all told in a hasty manner.
Another shortcoming of this movie is the lack of a strong backstory surrounding the primary antagonist: the Annabelle doll itself. It is obvious that this so-called “plot” all stitched together as an excuse to put up one scare scene after another. The only noteworthy thing about Dauberman’s script is the way he connected the dots during the epilogue that seamlessly tied back to the 2014 original.
Remember not to leave the cinema early once the end credits roll. There will be two extra footage, both during and after the credits.