Annabelle: Cre­ation

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - DAN LYBARGER

The mak­ers of Annabelle: Cre­ation have an­swered a ques­tion that re­ally isn’t on any­one’s mind. Namely, “How did the creepy doll from The Con­jur­ing come into be­ing?”

Af­ter watch­ing the film, it seems as if the pro­duc­ers and Warner Bros. stock­hold­ers were re­ally ask­ing, “How can we keep mak­ing money off The Con­jur­ing with­out hav­ing to waste our time think­ing of a de­cent story or images that don’t come from bet­ter horror movies like The Ex­or­cist?”

In her sec­ond movie on her own, Annabelle: Cre­ation, “Annabelle” man­ages to im­i­tate the pac­ing, the Catholic over­tones and the tone of the first movie but re­places all the chills with un­in­ten­tional laugh­ter.

It might have helped if screen­writer Gary Dauber­man (the mind who gave us the first in­stall­ment) could cre­ate peo­ple who were as in­ter­est­ing as the de­mon-pos­sessed doll. Worse, he and di­rec­tor David F. Sand­berg (Lights Out) com­mit the car­di­nal sin of mak­ing view­ers wait for Annabelle’s creepy gaze back at the cam­era.

There’s lit­tle need for an ori­gin story when you’ve al­ready seen the fi­nal prod­uct. We al­ready know she’s a con­duit for Satan and his le­gions, so Dauber­man has an up­hill climb to fig­ure out how to

get them in­side the ce­ramic fig­urine. Like his pro­tag­o­nist Janice (Talitha Bateman), he seems to be tak­ing an el­e­va­tor to get around when he should be ex­ert­ing him­self to come up with some­thing be­sides jump scares that don’t re­ally frighten.

At least Janice has an ex­cuse for hav­ing to get as­sis­tance up and down stairs. She needs a crutch and a leg brace af­ter con­tract­ing po­lio a few years be­fore. She and a small group of other girls have moved in with a morose cou­ple named Sam and Es­ther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Mi­randa Otto). From the movie’s open­ing frames, we learn that Sam makes lim­ited-edi­tion dolls that sell well enough for him and his wife to live in a home spa­cious enough to house or­phans.

It doesn’t take any imag­i­na­tion to fig­ure out why Sam broods and Es­ther doesn’t bother to greet the girls at all. The two lost their 7-year-old daugh­ter, Bee (Sa­mara Lee), a dozen years be­fore.

Be­cause the se­cret’s not re­ally a se­cret, there’s no sur­prise when a Bible starts flip­ping its pages or when the fig­ures in a pho­to­graph mys­te­ri­ously ap­pear or dis­ap­pear. It helps that the film is set in the 1940s or ’50s, but we in the present are still aware of Pho­to­Shop. As Sis­ter Char­lotte, the nun sup­pos­edly run­ning the or­phan­age, Stephanie Sig­man seems cu­ri­ously obliv­i­ous to all the visual clut­ter. It’s as if she needs bet­ter cor­rec­tive lenses in­stead of deeper faith.

The Con­jur­ing’s di­rec­tor James Wan is cred­ited as a pro­ducer on this one, and it of­ten seems as Annabelle: Cre­ation is synched to Wan’s stop­watch. Sand­berg slav­ishly fol­lows all of Wan’s story beats and rev­e­la­tions, but is un­able to come up with the shocks to go with them. The deaf­en­ing score by Ben­jamin Wall­fisch con­tin­u­ally re­minds view­ers this is sup­posed to be a horror movie, but the rest of the film hasn’t both­ered to pro­duce any images that match the roar of the mu­sic.

Ac­tu­ally, the look of the film is part of the prob­lem. Un­like Sis­ter Char­lotte and the or­phans, we fig­ure out the place is trou­ble be­cause the house has peel­ing paint on the outer walls. Per­haps Sam and Es­ther re­ally want to stick it to the Church by of­fer­ing an or­phan­age that seems so un­wel­com­ing from the out­side.

The or­phan chil­dren in Dick­ens nov­els have more scenic places to live.

Per­haps if the place looked great from the out­side, the ob­jects that go bump in the night wouldn’t seem so pre­dictable later. It would have turned out bet­ter had Annabelle writ­ten the script.

Janice (Talitha Bateman) has to deal with a very creepy doll in the su­per­nat­u­ral thriller Annabelle: Cre­ation, a pre­quel to The Con­jur­ing fran­chise.

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