Annabelle: Creation (2017) Review
Annabelle: Creation is directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and stars Lulu Wilson (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Deliver Us From Evil), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), Stephanie Sigman (Spectre, Miss Bala) and Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace, Lantana). "Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker's possessed creation, Annabelle". Can the Annabelle films pull a 'Ouija' with a sequel that improves massively on the first not-so-good film?
The first Annabelle was really the oddball of The Conjuring universe for all the wrong reasons- I don't remember much of it but what I do remember is that it wasn't that scary and it wasn't that great. Even though 'Creation' is simply average, that is still an improvement on the first freaky flick. Annabelle: Creation is packed full of effective jump scares but what the film makes up for in scares, it really lacks in narrative. There also wasn't much connection to The Conjuring Universe and I wasn't convinced by the horrors of the Annabelle doll, other than her appearance.
Before we get to the negatives, I'll tell you what is good about Annabelle: Creation. I've briefly covered it already but Annabelle 2 brought the scares to a new level in comparison to the first film. There's jump scare after jump scare and even though it is obvious they are coming, they always manage to surprise and elicit the exact reaction that is intended. Director, David Sandberg also directed last years very very solid, Lights Out. You can really see that he specializes in horror as he has the scares down to a tee. One complaint I do have though is that I wasn't convinced that it was 'Annabelle' causing all of the scary antics. I know that it's actually a demon possessing Annabelle so the doll is just a host but with such a freaky appearance, you'd think Annabelle would have more 'Chucky' vibes than simply being possessed. I wish the demon that possessed Annabelle made her to more freaky things rather than just appearing in odd places and turning her head -let's get a creepy laugh or some physical movement.
Another positive is the cast. They all do a superb job and really maintain the high-brow horror tone that The Conjuring films have created. Lulu Wilson and Tabitha Bateman are both fantastic as the two young leads. This time though, its Wilson who remains innocent, scared and naive instead of becoming possessed like her character in Ouija 2. I do also think it's an interesting choice for Wilson to be featured in both sequels to two very inferior films. I don't think Wilson can risk doing another horror film after this as although she's good at it, audiences are going to get confused and she will never escape the genre. Tabitha Bateman is also fantastic, both when she's innocent and naive as well as when she's evil and demonic. Wilson and Bateman also have brilliant chemistry which makes what happens all the more devastating. The connection and friendship between the two girls is very well established - there's an especially sweet moment before everything goes pear shape where the two girls reminisce about their old times together. All of the other young females do well. It's finally nice to see both young actors and actors in horror films portrayed well - it's becoming more rare that there are bad young actors and bad horror actors. Stephanie Sigman's performance is very warm and she is convincing as the guardian of the six girls. Anthony LaPaglia is also good. I have to say, this is just a very well-acted film in general and it's becoming very nice to be able to say that after watching most horror genres. The genre seems to be fixed.
Here come the negatives and the big one is the plot, narrative and script. Who's to blame? Gary Dauberman. Unsurprisingly, it's the same writer as the first film so it makes sense why every other area has improved except for the narrative. What's worrying though is that the same writer is behind the highly anticipated 'It' and another Conjuring spin-off, 'The Nun'. What did Dauberman do wrong? He fails to compile an interesting and compelling story...to be honest, he fails to create a narrative whatsoever. It's never clear what direction the film is heading which also has an impact on the pace. It just felt like the film lingered around until it was ready to reveal what was actually going on which then triggered the conventional super scary horror third act sequence. I also thought it was interesting how the film's big reveal was already revealed in the trailer- luckily I hadn't realized this beforehand or else I would have really felt like I was wasting my time. The plot is actually pretty basic and generic - a group of girls arrive at a home, weird things start to happen, one of them becomes possessed and the other girls finally realise and try to stop it. I also found the ending very anti-climatic, it all seemed to easy. I think that was down to there actually being nothing new- we've seen Annabelle do stuff like this before, we've seen similar things in The Conjuring universe - the film needed to pull something new out of its sleeve to go out with a bang. Annabelle: Creation is very light on story and I think it really suffers from that.
Something else the film fails to do well is add to The Conjuring universe. There's no new mythology to explain why this prequel needed to exist. What was even more annoying is that there are flashbacks within this prequel which means there is a prequel to the prequel - we were promised a story about the creation of Annabelle but instead we got the middle chapter (with the first film being the final chapter). I was hoping for a feature length tale about the Mullins and how they were tricked into believing the spirits were their dead daughter. Does this mean we will be getting a third installment ment that is actually the origin of the doll? Thinking of it, that would be quite a clever thing to do- a backwards trilogy. The way the film actually ended was very satisfying. Even though the first Annabelle wasn't my favourite- I liked how this one literally tied to the first. It was clever and I was pleased there was some pay-off to an otherwise irrelevant film. Another connection to the wider universe was the reference to The Nun- this was very brief but very excited and got me excited for the spin-off. It was what a tease should be. Finally, even though the story lacked being connected and important, this film still stylistically felt like it belonged in The Conjuring universe. The set and costume design matched with the previous entries and although Wan, the chief of this universe, didn't direct this one, it's still clear he has creative control as it definitely fits in with The Conjuring puzzle pieces.
All-in-all, despite Annabelle: Creation actually not being that great, it still manages to feel like a high-brow horror film with superb acting, exquisite set and costume design and a very distinguishable style. Creation is also much scarier than its predecessor and is generally better as a whole. However, what the second entry fails to improve on is the story - Creation tells an anti-climatic, pretty much non-existent story and instead its more like just watching a situation unfold. I fear for the promising upcoming projects Dauberman has written. Annabelle: Creation is worth seeing simply for the scares but if you're hoping for something that adds to the wider universe, you may be disappointed. Creation will satisfy horror fans who have been starved of scares this summer movie season.