There’s a Creepy Doll that Always Follows You…

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I still can’t believe it.  They did it; they actually pulled it off.  Against all odds, Blumhouse Productions actually managed to turn Annabelle into a legitimately good movie.  The film had everything going against it – a historically terrible director, a largely untested screenwriter, a cast consisting completely of unknowns and non-entities and a subject that could most readily be described as a more confusing version of Chucky – and yet that somehow proved to be more than enough to churn out a surprisingly high-quality horror film.

When John Form buys a rare, vintage doll for his pregnant wife Mia, it’s supposed to be a celebration of their new life together.  But when Annabelle Wallis, their neighbor’s estranged daughter, murders her parents in the middle of the night as part of a satanic ritual, everything changes for them.  Before the police can stop her, Annabelle attacks the Forms, slits her own throat, paints a satanic symbol into their nursery wall with her own blood and dies cradling the cherubic doll.

But that is only the beginning of the Forms’ troubles.  Annabelle’s ritual bound a demon to Mia’s doll, and it will not abate until it collects its due: a human soul.  The dark presence within the doll relentlessly stalks the Forms, and especially Mia: burning down their house, chasing Mia through her new apartment complex and abducting the Forms’ newborn child.  Not even the Catholic Church proves capable of saving the new family from their demonic tormentor.  Their only potential salvation lies within Evelyn – a kindly bookstore owner who believes that she was saved by God for a higher purpose.

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The entirety of the film – from its basic narrative to its specific scenes of terror – would have invariably fallen flat in the hands of a less capable creative team.  Every decision that they made could have – in fact, should have – been the wrong one to make.  Although visually off-putting, Annabelle is not an inherently frightening antagonist.  The demon bound to the doll should have been the exact opposite of frightening when actually shown on screen.  Even its conclusion – cloaked in self-sacrifice and ending all too happily – should have been insufferably saccharin against the film’s constantly dark aesthetic.

And yet, somehow, everything fell perfectly into place.  The Forms are not the vapid, idiotic protagonists from most other horror films.  They are an intelligent, deeply religious couple that recognize when something is wrong, fail to leap to rash conclusions about the events affecting them and seek out assistance when they require it.  The priest that they contact likewise takes their concerns with all the severity that it warrants, taking possession of the doll, and attempting to both confine it in a sanctified location and contact the Warrens: the expert demonologists from The Conjuring who eventually do inter the doll in their East Coast home.

Without question, the film’s most memorable sequence is Mia’s chase scene from the basement of her apartment complex to her upper-story apartment.  While a less capable director would have shown too much of the demon, John Leonetti reveals just enough of the black creature amidst the heavy shadows of the unlit apartment building, allowing audiences to get an incredibly long look at the creature without succumbing to the same over-exposure that Bathsheba suffered from in her big reveal in The Conjuring.

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While not without its flaws, Annabelle ultimately proves to be just as capable a horror film as any in Blumhouse’s growing catalog.  The production company again proves that it is not picking the most celebrated talent that matters in filmmaking, but picking the right talent for the task at hand.  The film proves to be just as memorable as its predecessor, with a number of chilling scenes that linger in your mind well after the credits have finished rolling.  Overall, I give it a solid 7 out of 10.

2 Comments

  1. Nick Verboon October 24, 2014
  2. Zach October 27, 2014

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