A dash of Rose­mary fails to add any flavour

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

ANNABELLE ★★ Di­rected by John R Leonetti Star­ring Annabelle Wal­lis, Ward Hor­ton, Tony Amen­dola, Al­fre Woodard, Kerry O’Mal­ley, Brian Howe, Eric Ladin 16 cert, gen re­lease, 98 min

There is in­vari­ably a struc­tural flaw to any hor­ror movie from the pos­sessed-doll genre (and the pos­sessed-ven­tril­o­quist­dummy sub-genre). The film-mak­ers posit that an un­threat­en­ing en­tity has been un­ex­pect­edly in­vested with malev­o­lent en­ergy. The prob­lem is that no doll in any such movie has ever looked less threat­en­ing than a bull with a flick-knife. You wouldn’t let your cat sleep with Chucky. Would you?

The toy in this pre­quel to agree­able pe­riod hor­ror The Con­jur­ing could hardly seem more sin­is­ter if it had pre­sented Top of the Pops dur­ing the 1970s. An enor­mous fe­male thing with mis­ap­plied lip­stick, it tele­graphs apoc­a­lyp­tic evil from the mo­ment it al­lows it­self to be brought into the fam­ily home. Let’s just place it on this rock­ing chair. Shall we? Noth­ing un­to­ward hap­pens to scary dolls when they’re sit­ting on rock­ing chairs. Right?

To be fair, the open­ing two thirds of Annabelle are not at all bad. Ward Hor­ton and Annabelle Wal­lis play John and Mia, a hand­some cou­ple liv­ing an af­flu­ent life in nicer parts of Los An­ge­les dur­ing the early 1970s. John and Mia? Re­ally? As if the al­lu­sions to Rose­mary’s Baby were not ex­plicit enough, the film-mak­ers re­ally do name their char­ac­ters after the stars of Ro­man Polan­ski’s master­piece.

Not to worry. Fun is had with pe­riod de­tail – mon chrome soap op­eras and huge pre-Opec cars – as the cou­ple’s per­fect life be­gins to show signs of su­per­nat­u­ral in­fil­tra­tion. The doll is here. Some­thing is up with their baby. The doll is there. A proto-Man­son Fam­ily is on the prowl. Ahh, the doll is in the rock­ing chair.

Sadly, the film goes com­pletely off the boil in the last half hour as it gives in to the anti-logic of the ghost train.

Things leap out from be­hind other things. Faces lurk in cor­ri­dors. Creaks and bangs echo down loom­ing cor­ri­dors. And now the yawn­ing be­gins.

with generic post-Giger faces. So it re­ally is like a cruise.

But why, how and who­dunit? Th­ese ques­tions are an­swered with in­el­e­gant chunks of ex­po­si­tion. The more we know, the less we un­der­stand. It’s as if all five op­tions from the Write

A Hit Young Adult Novel were ticked and in­cluded in the fi­nal draft, up to and in­clud­ing a wizard did it.

Some aw­fully good ac­tors – Will Poul­ter, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster – work hard to breathe life into a non­sen­si­cal plot. De­press­ingly, the film is the first in­stal­ment in a se­quence based on James Dash­ner’s Maze Run­ner tril­ogy.

Dy­lan O’Brien’s character Thomas – he con­ve­niently re­mem­bers his name, then noth­ing else – is plagued by vi­sions of Kaya Scode­lario and Pa­tri­cia Clark­son in a white coat. When the lat­ter fi­nally does ap­pear, the ex­tras be­hind her ap­pear to be mak­ing lob­ster claw ges­tures in or­der to in­di­cate fran­tic ac­tiv­ity.

All that’s miss­ing is a pop-up cameo from the late Leslie Neilsen: “Shirley, they won’t sub­ject us to Maze Run­ner 2?”

I should be so Chucky: Tony Amen­dola in Annabelle

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