Just before the beginning of Annabelle: Creation‘s third act, the character of Linda utters three words that could properly summarize my thoughts on the film; “who cares, run”. Nearly every genre trope can be found in the latest from Lights Out director David F. Sandberg. The film itself is a prequel to the 2014 film Annabelle. But, in this one, you get to see how the doll was created (yawn). In a summer that’s been filled with franchise fatigue, Warner Bros. and New Line decided they could milk whatever they could out of another horror spinoff. The movie itself is competently directed, and there are some acceptable performances. But Annabelle: Creation leaves much to be desired in this played out genre.
The film follows a group of girls who are orphans. Brought by a nun to a couples secluded house, they begin to settle in. Of course, one of the girls goes where she shouldn’t, discovers the doll and all hell breaks loose. Creepy things begin to happen, characters make bad decisions and in case you were wondering, yes there is a character possessed by a demon, and yes the Bible is the answer. It really doesn’t get much more generic than Annabelle: Creation. The only thing it may be missing is a demonic clown.
Sandberg, for what he is given to work with (a cliche script from Annabelle scribe Gary Dauberman) does add some semblance of style to this unnecessary movie. He has some interesting camera work that is fairly clever. Sandberg also uses some unique lighting to set to the set mood. But it’s all for naught in the grand scheme of the film. Maybe I just don’t get it. I haven’t seen the films 2014 predecessor. Still, there is nothing new here. There is no shade of authenticity found in Annabelle: Creation. Everything you think will happen does, and Dauberman’s script leaves nothing up to the imagination. I don’t need complete substance from every film I see. But when the same story line, thrills and plot points are constantly recycled, it gets hard to watch.
If there’s anything to recommend from the film, it’s the performances of its young stars. Two in particular are stand outs. Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman play Linda and Janice respectively. The latter, is recovering from polio and she and Linda have a tight bond. It’s a bond the film wisely sets up in the beginning, and then inexplicably, we never get to explore their relationship further, save for one pointless scene in the second act. Regardless, the two young ladies are truly committed and their turns are definitely stand outs.
The score, composed by Benjamin Wallfisch, is just about the creepiest thing in the film. Its used to show tension, but rarely does its swelling crescendos feel manipulative. It’s a score that doesn’t demand the audience to feel a certain way when they see what’s coming, it just exists and serves the action well.
Above all, Annabelle: Creation doesn’t come up with new ways to scare people. It relies on the tried and true ways of getting the audience to squirm. Characters are dragged off screen by an unseen force, creepy imagery comes to life and just about everything that can go wrong does. Due to that, you can see every thing coming. Despite all of Sandberg’s talent on display, he still chooses to set up shots that linger on things that will become important later on in the film. It’s cheap storytelling.
The doll is creepy, no doubt about that. Yet, Annabelle: Creation relies too heavily on the mythos and world building to actually create something original. Instead, it is another derivative work of horror cinema. The Conjuring, the main film series of which this one is based on, at least has character development with its two leads. Those movies, which I don’t love, do a better job at creating tension and have a unique style. Annabelle: Creation will ultimately satisfy horror fans. But those looking for a little more substance, you won’t find it in this tired retread.