Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard
In my review of The Conjuring I praised it for being given time to let the story grow. This film was given the same amount of time but its end product was nowhere near as good. This prequel was just an excuse to make some money off the back of a mildly successful The Conjuring by exploring the history of the Annabelle doll which features briefly in the film.
The contrast between these two films, despite being part of the same universe, are staggering: whereas The Conjuring was creepy and had its own uniqueness to it, Annabelle was not scary at all, resorted to basic tricks and lost all of the charm it had. At the beginning of The Conjuring we see Ed and Lorraine gain possession of the doll from a couple, and, with this being a prequel to explore that doll’s history, one would assume we are following that story. Nope. In that case one would assume we are watching from the beginning of Annabelle’s creation and existence. Nope. This film fits somewhere in the middle, with Annabelle existing but not ending up with Ed and Lorraine by its conclusion, and that is a poor, poor choice by the director (who worked on The Conjuring). We have no origins and no conclusion, it just exists.
What is easily the worst part about this film, though, is its acting. It’s baffling how prequels/sequels like this, where it’s obvious they’re in it just for the money (ironically John R. Leonetti also directed The Butterfly Effect 2, a pointless sequel, which obviously flopped), can’t gather a cast as decent as its original. Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy) plays Mia Form, a mother who is given the doll by her partner John (Ward Horton), and judging by how dire her performance it’s only safe to assume she got this part because she shares a name with the doll and the director liked that. She is terrible. Ward Horton isn’t much better (but he’s in the film much less), as he generally uses just one facial expression throughout: it doesn’t matter if he’s happy, sad, scared, worried or sceptical, he generally looks the same. And their on-screen relationship is very poor; they don’t look like an authentic couple so when he comes to make the save later on it doesn’t have that same feeling as when Ed came for Lorraine or Roger came for Carolyn in The Conjuring.
One of the many things The Conjuring did well was its camera angles; there were some brilliant overhead shots and long shots; Annabelle, directed by the cinematographer of The Conjuring, ignores these. Instead we get constant close-ups of Annabelle, and zoom-ins of Annabelle, and close-ups of Annabelle. The doll isn’t alive, we’re told the doll isn’t alive, yet we’re constantly reminded that this doll is important to this film.
Some of the plot conveniences in this film are laughable, too. Mia meets a librarian and, hesitantly, explains she believes their home to be haunted. The librarian then becomes close friends with her and is very clued up on the difference between ghosts and demons and plays a vital role in the climax. They also lay an extremely subtle clue about her fate by stating that she wanted to kill herself (after she accidentally killed her daughter in a car crash) yet her daughter stopped her by claiming she still had a purpose on this planet. It’s so lucky for Mia that she meets this woman.
A needless film to be made and, surprisingly, it got itself a prequel (to hopefully serve The Conjuring better justice). Very, very bad acting, easy-to-guess surprises and some laughable plot conveniences (not to mention the fact it’s a horror film that isn’t scary in the slightest), make this a truly poor attempt by a director with an ever-increasing catalogue of poor films.
Plot: * *
Writing: * *
Presentation: * *
Overall Rating: * ¾