Director: David F. Sandberg (Lights Out)
Screenplay: Gary Dauberman (Annabelle)
Cast: Stephanie Sigman (Spectre) , Miranda Otto (The Daughter)
Runtime: 1 hr 40 min
by John DeSando
“Forgive me, Father, for I am about to sin.” Janice (Talitha Bateman)
Annabelle: Creation is a welcome origin story about the darling doll not so darling in the two Conjuring films and the subsequent Annabelle. Downright murderous if you ask me. This horror hodgepodge throws every possible terror trope at the wall and sees what sticks. The real victim is not little girls and young women but the Catholic Church.
The terrifying element of this thriller is the commentary on religion with its crucified Christ recreated in different motifs from the simple hand-held crucifix to a body nailed to a wall with arms splayed. Subtle the film is not, not that my fav, The Exorcist, was a model of restraint. It’s just that in moving from set piece to set piece, the most horrible constant is how religion is ineffective against evil; the rest is safely in the trope traditions of the horror film. It doesn't help that a student does confession with a nun!
Reinforcing the religious basis is Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), appropriately comely at that, who guides six female Catholic orphans to stay at the Mullins’ home after their orphanage has been shuttered. The home of possessed doll Annabelle is fertile with jump-scares as the girls are tormented by the presence of the dead daughter of the household. Because I have seen demonic dolls in Chucky and Twilight Zone, this one is so-so. It doesn't help Catholicism either that a student does confession with a nun!
While a cross thrust into the face of an Annabelle surrogate is essentially futile, the inability of a priest to expunge the palpable danger adds to the notion that even faith or the presence of the Church will not deter the devil on his rounds. The girls are effective substitutes for the audience because they are both innocent and impotent against the terrible presence.
Lamentably, Annabelle: Creation ignores some deeper possibilities like the abandoned well that serves only briefly to scare the bejesus out of the aud. I want more well, I tell you!
Annabelle: Creation serves an important role in clarifying the origins of this deranged plaything as she appears in the Conjuring and Annabelle. I wanted to be scared the way the nuns scared me in grammar school. Then again, no filmmaker could replicate that terror. A delectable young nun, however, this filmmaker got right, if I remember my fantasies well enough.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com