Continuing to prequel the possessed doll’s history, Annabelle: Creation takes us further back, in effect a prequel to the prequel; an origins story to the origins story.
Perhaps the Annabelle franchise – a complementary series of prequels inspired by The Conjuring and spiritual cousin, by way of its production team, to Insidious – is destined to be the horror troupe’s less satisfying side order. But the box office tells us something different given that it, like its predecessor, has earned impressive financial returns on par with the franchise that birthed it.
That tells us the public’s thirst for “Annabelle” is as hot as it is for the paranormal investigations of the Warrens in The Conjuring films. Indeed, as 2014’s Annabelle proved, there’s something very tasty about these economical scary movies for fans craving rollercoaster thrills.
Continuing to prequel the possessed doll’s history, Annabelle: Creation takes us further back, in effect a prequel to the prequel; an origins story to the origins story. It’s 1943 and a dollmaker’s daughter is killed in a road accident. Jump forward 12 years and the couple decide to open their house to a bunch of orphaned girls and their carer; a decision that proves profoundly stupid but required as the conceit behind director David F. Sandberg’s horror set pieces.
It turns out the couple had dabbled in a bit of black magic, and like Regan’s ill-fated game on the Ouija board in The Exorcist, once that door has been opened, the malignant supernatural force is difficult to shift. So it seems strange that the couple would invite six young girls into a home once riddled by malevolence despite an understandable need on their part of find closure, something they clearly still struggle with even more than a decade after the death of their daughter.
But it’s that dramatic kick-starter that niggles in Annabelle: Creation as these innocent children are lambs to the slaughter. But, Sandberg, who made the enjoyable Lights Out in 2016, has an agreeable knack for generating some good scares and this 2017 effort delivers. In fact, once it gets going, the film rarely lets up, pounding the viewer with dark corridor thrills, bulbs that seem to fail just when something nasty is about to appear, a neat trick with a stair lift, and a delightfully unnerving scarecrow-comes-alive moment.
Sandberg’s effort isn’t an upgrade on the previous film in the series but it’s a serviceable effort, with some engaging performances from young stars Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson, that fills the gap between the superior Conjuring and Insidious films. It’s not very well conceived, lacks inspiration and its final scene features some laughably bad acting from talented stunt woman turned cameo performer Tree O’Toole, but Annabelle: Creation joins the dots with satisfying efficiency.