A dash of Rosemary fails to add any flavour
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