Annabelle might have been a good idea on paper and certainly had a built-in audience thanks to the breakout box office for The Conjuring, but its execution was lackluster with not that many scares and the creepy quotient also wasn’t up to par.
Genre(s): Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Warner Bros. | R – 98 min. – $35.99 | January 20, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.0/5
Note: This review does contain spoilers so please skip if you have yet to see the movie.
When The Conjuring was released in 2013, it was a box office smash grabbing $318 million worldwide off of a $20 million production budget. So, not only is a sequel a no-brainer for Warner Brothers, but to keep momentum, the spin-off Annabelle was quickly greenlit and released in 2014 and did fairly well with a $255 million worldwide haul and a mere $6.5 million budget.
For all of the success of The Conjuring, this spin-off falters at nearly every turn with a laughable story and nary any real scares to be found.
The story, after having the same opening as featured in The Conjuring, is set in 1969 where Santa Monica couple John (WARD HORTON) and Mia Form (ANNABELLE WALLIS) are expecting their first child when all hell breaks loose. Their next door neighbor’s hippie daughter, Annabelle (TREE O’TOOLE), and her boyfriend attack her parents and they make their way to the Form household stabbing Mia and beating John up before police swoop in shoot the boyfriend while the daughter kills herself holding the creepy doll and her blood drips on the doll thereby giving us the origin of this doll.
After this traumatic event, strange things begin happening in the household including a stove turning on and popcorn, left on burner overnight, begins popping and nearly burns the house down and some evil entity attempts to keep Mia inside, though she is rescued by neighbors. She does give birth to a healthy baby girl named Lia.
Disturbed by the events, John and Mia decide to move to Pasadena as it will be close to his new job at the hospital. However, and in spite of trying to get rid of the Annabelle doll, it somehow managed to come with them though Mia decided to keep it… for some strange reason. And, of course, odd things begin to happen there as well such as a demon attempting to grab Mia in the creepy storage/basement, books falling off shelves trying to hit Lia and the demonic spirit of Annabelle scaring the crap out of Mia. Not all is bad, though, as Mia is befriended by a neighbor, and bookstore owner, Evelyn (ALFRE WOODARD) who does help out to investigate symbols, history and other elements to get a handle on what is going on; it has something to do with demons wanting souls and whatnot.
I’ve said it before, but as much as I enjoy horror movies, I gear more towards more human villains than those of the supernatural with a few exceptions (Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street for example). And so with that in mind, Annabelle never really grabbed my attention however it didn’t help there just wasn’t many scares and any atmosphere that director John R. Leonetti — who was the DP on The Conjuring and many others — created just never panned out; kind of reminds me of Wally Pfister, technically sound, but any emotional elements faltered along with a half-baked story.
On the plus side, the acting isn’t bad. Alfre Woodard is the only known commodity but provides some weight while Annabelle Wallis (oh the irony?) is good in the lead role and has an almost tinge of Naomi Watts in her (not a bad thing) while Ward Horton is… well… is kind of there filling the role just fine but is ultimately unexceptional. Any issues I had with this film was not with the performances.
That said, Annabelle is an all around weak horror film trading in on the success of The Conjuring but doesn’t have many scares and in a few instances is kind of confusing (such as why the possessed priest showed up at the doorstep, it did nothing but try to up the creepy factor). Although not awful, there’s not much that stands out and is ultimately forgettable.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside the case is a standard DVD Copy as well as a redemption code for the Digital Copy.
The Curse of Annabelle (5:31; HD) is a behind-the-scenes featurette with on-set interviews with the cast and crew including producer James Wan, director of The Conjuring, as they discuss the story behind the doll.
Bloody Tears of Possession (5:32; HD) is more of the same with a focus on the filmmaking aspect of how the director chose to shoot the movie including an all-in-one shot early on in the film.
Dolls of the Demon (4:04; HD) – This featurette delves into the creation of the Annabelle doll and what makes her so creepy.
A Demonic Process (4:59; HD) goes into the demon and its design featured in the film.
Deleted Scenes (20:35; HD) – Here we get eight scenes that were either trimmed or cut completely out. None of these really stood out nor would’ve changed the film and I suspect they were removed either due to redundancy or pacing.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Annabelle creeps onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture, to no surprise, looks fantastic with sharp detail levels, stark dark levels and colors which are purposely muted in keeping with the genre. There are no significant signs of artifacts or pixilation making for a clean transfer.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track does quite well showcasing the jump scares, Joseph Bishara’s thriller-centric score, and the odds and ends like ambient noises, sounds coming from different rooms and other elements. The movie might not be scary or anything, but the soundtrack is at least effective enough.
OVERALL – 2.75/5
Overall, Annabelle might have been a good idea on paper and certainly had a built-in audience thanks to the breakout box office for The Conjuring, but its execution was lackluster with not that many scares and the creepy quotient also wasn’t up to par. The Blu-ray released by Warner Brothers does have a decent amount of bonus material (~20-minutes of featurettes) while the video/audio transfers are both well done.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.