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Film Review: ‘Annabelle’


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Finally a film for audience members who thought films like “The Conjuring” were bogged down by that pesky thing called plot.

“Annabelle” – a follow up to the 2013 hit “The Conjuring” – fails to deliver on anything but jump scares. Ten minutes into the film, the plot already feels tedious and overdone, not adding anything to the story that terrified audiences just a year previous.

“Annabelle” tells the story of a doll possessed by one of the members of a Manson-like cult, and raises more questions than were ever asked. Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) play a standard couple living in southern California in the ‘60s. The issues begin even before the haunting does. Before becoming possessed, the Annabelle doll is far from pleasant, and the reason to keep her around is always very contrived.

Mia makes every mistake in the book. She ignores telltale signs of a haunting, often leaves her baby unattended and insists on keeping a doll that really has caused problem after problem for this small family. The rest of the cast is almost comical in how quickly and easily they believe and dispense knowledge of the haunting. John isn’t at all skeptical and just takes his wife’s word for it without needing to see anything.

“The Conjuring” director James Wan is only credited as a producer on this film, and it shows. Directed by Wan’s go-to cinematography, John R. Leonetti, “Annabelle” looks great. The style does play up on the look and feel of ‘60s horror films. The style can only save this film for so long before the lack of plot gets in the way.

The storyline has been done a million times, and none of the twists are new or exciting. It isn’t shocking to see that lead writer Gary Dauberman’s only other writing credits include made-for-TV films like “Bloodmonkey” and “Swamp Devil.”

Dauberman writes around the doll. At its core “Annabelle” is a haunted house movie that just so happens to have a creepy doll. There are only two scenes at most that make any use of the doll. Mia’s sewing machine gets more suspenseful screen time than the doll ever does.

While some of the jump scares are effective, the director obviously has some issues understanding the basics of foreshadowing and suspense. Each small event is foreshadowed to the point where the event doesn’t carry any weight when it actually occurs. Several shots are dedicated to focusing on an object and hinting towards a scare that is never delivered.

The story of Annabelle the doll didn’t need to be elaborated on beyond its place in “The Conjuring,” and this film proves it.  Unfortunately, like most prequels, “Annabelle” creates more questions than answers.

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