Hor­ror film milks scares out of creepy doll

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Roger Moore

ACHILD’S crayon rolls across a floor. Cur­tains fly back from a win­dow you thought was closed. TV-dis­tracted seam­stress looks at her sewing ma­chine less and less as the cam­era zooms closer and closer to that naked nee­dle whirring at her fin­ger­tips. And the most alarm­ing look­ing child’s doll this side of Chucky stares, with dead eyes, out of the cor­ner of the frame as a puz­zled, haunted young mother steps through a door in the back­ground. Some­times, the best ef­fects are the cheap­est. Annabelle is another tale of a doll pos­sessed, a hor­ror movie of such hoary con­ven­tions that we meet the “know­ing priest” (Tony Amen­dola) in the first scene and we’re in­tro­duced to the help­ful, oc­cult-cu­ri­ous book­store owner (Al­fre Woodard) be­fore the first act is through. There’s noth­ing sur­pris­ing about this tale, in­clud­ing its con­nec­tion to the mod­ern ghost sto­ries told in The Amityville Hor­ror and The Con­jur­ing. But what it lacks in orig­i­nal­ity it makes up with in hair-rais­ing ex­e­cu­tion. You will scream like a teenage girl. Mia (Annabelle Wal­lis) and John (Ward Hor­ton) may be the bland­est by a ghost.” “Aisle four!” Wal­lis (TV’s The Tu­dors), thanks to good luck, or bad, shares the name of the ti­tle character, which isn’t re­ally the doll but the evil cultist who in­hab­its it. But Wal­lis gives a per­for­mance so flat, low-heat and soft-voiced that you won­der what the di­rec­tor was telling her. Surely the sound crew was shout­ing, “She needs to speak up!” If the meek are go­ing to in­herit the Earth, Wal­lis and Mia will surely be landed gen­try. Her un­der­play­ing almost works as a coun­ter­point to the ris­ing ter­ror of cin­e­matog­ra­pher-turned-di­rec­tor John R. Leonetti’s vin­tage ef­fects — baby car­riages that roll on their own, noises in the at­tic, dudes dressed like Satan. We’re lulled to sleep by the act­ing, jolted when some­thing we’ve seen a mil­lion times hap­pens. Annabelle de­liv­ers noth­ing new, ex­cept a mild sur­prise in the clos­ing cred­its, which sharp-eyed Con­jur­ing fans will have al­ready picked up on. The per­for­mances don’t en­sure em­pa­thy, though the young-mom na­ture of the hero­ine does. But like In­sid­i­ous and The Con­jur­ing, the only goal here is to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. And Annabelle does, more than once, be­fore that dolly is done.

WARNER BROS.

Like cats, haunted life-size dolls will seek out beams of sun­light.

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