With cinematic universes all the rage, James Wan’s The Conjuring franchise continues to expand with Annabelle: Creation, the second spinoff film to feature the diabolical doll introduced in 2013’s The Conjuring.
As the title suggests, this is an origin story, but does it answer the big question of why the hell anyone would want to make such a creepy looking doll in the first place? Not really.
The malevolent manikin is a limited edition of one, created by toymaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) for his seven-year-old daughter, Annabelle, whose life is cut tragically short in a hokey accident. Cut to 12 years later and Mullins and his reclusive wife (Miranda Otto) have turned their rambling rural home into an orphanage for girls, and when one of them discovers the doll locked away in a closet, all hell invariably breaks loose.
Although directed by David F. Sandberg, who proved his horror chops with the effective Lights Out, this has all the trademarks of the Wan school of scaremongering: an old dark house, a demonic presence, an old ditty (‘You are My Sunshine’) on vinyl repeat, eerie photographs and possessed children.
The plot might be all over the place, but the frights do come thick and fast, and Sandberg demonstrates a knack for, err, conjuring decent shocks – a scene involving a bedsheet ghost is particularly chilling. But like most modern horror films, it all quickly descends into a cacophony of sound, fury, and jump scares. And a lot of what transpires is telegraphed well in advance, like a stair chair lift and dumbwaiter that inevitably become deathtraps.
There’s also a shout-out to the nun from The Conjuring 2 (who has her own spin-off due next year) and a sinister scarecrow that will probably get his own film as well. Annabelle herself doesn’t really do much except look menacing, and pop up when you least expect it.
Annabelle: Creation is a carnival spook house that gets the job done, and fans of this brand of horror won’t be disappointed. If the screams from the preview audience at San Diego Comic-Con are any indication, we probably haven’t seen the last of Annabelle.
In cinemas: August 10, 2017
Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Talitha Bateman
Directed by: David F. Sandberg