A nun and a group of orphaned girls are housed in the home of a dollmaker and his wife, but soon notice strange goings-on after coming into contact with a doll in a white dress: Annabelle.
In no way is it perfect, but Annabelle: Creation continues the trend that sees horror sequels improve on their predecessor. The first Annabelle was a dull, formulaic and almost scare-free introduction to the possessed doll, but Annabelle: Creation is well-structured and simple, boasting gorgeous cinematography and a host of memorably petrifying moments.
The story itself is the weakest element of Creation as it follows a group of children tormented by the possessed Annabelle, much like The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. However, Angel of Death was a CGI-ridden mess that had no legitimately scary moments, so the lacklustre story had no redeeming factors. Creation does.
We already knew that Annabelle was a puppet for a demonic entity, but Creation explores this further and does well to explain her chilling beginnings. The dollmaker and his wife lost their daughter in an accident and their desperation to talk to her leads them to allow her spirit to live inside a doll. Or so they think. As all good grief-centred horror films teach: it is never ever a good idea to make contact with the dead, but characters will always try to do so and that’s the fun for audiences. As you might expect, a demonic entity latches on to the couple’s grief under the guise of their dead child and that is how the scary Annabelle as we know her is created.
Although the story is somewhat predictable, there is a charm in Gary Dauberman’s writing because he has kept it so close to classic horror stories. There are no crazy surprises or twists to make you gasp, but the simple exploration of the horror of grief, death and demons latching onto the weak is the perfect concoction for creating Annabelle. The cinematography is also great and reminiscent of gothic horror, where the home’s dark corners and shadowy edges are exploited to rein in the terror, teasing us to scour the screen and look out of something going bump in the night.
As well as opening the lid on Annabelle’s creation, the film does well to tease the next film in line: The Nun, as well as introducing more creatures to fear. A stand-out moment involves a poor girl in the barn and left me asking: when was the last time we had a decent horror film with one of those at the centre?! Maybe soon. The Nun teases are great at raising subtle questions about Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and her link to Valak, but never take the spotlight from Annabelle. Solely work as a taster for what’s to come as Corin Hardy takes the helm of the next Conjuring spin-off, Annabelle: Creation is a great step for The Conjuring’s journey, but a greater step for Annabelle.
There are some skin-prickling scenes of tension that deliver some surprisingly effective scares. David F. Sandberg proved he could breathe life into supernatural horror with last year’s impressive genre piece Lights Out, but only improves on the shocks with Annabelle: Creation. Accompanied by a startling score by Benjamin Wallfisch, Creation is home to unforgettable moments of fear that will follow you home. Not literally, hopefully. Although it manages to execute frequently well-time jump scares, Creation is without the veil of atmosphere that typically is associated with The Conjuring. James Wan has become a master of horror by dousing his films in unbearable suspense, like a constant thread woven in to keep his audience on edge for the entire runtime. Creation conjures brilliant moments of fear, but moments are all they are.
Annabelle: Creation is far from a game-changing addition to the world of horror, but it is a competent endeavour that promises great things for the coming films in The Conjuring universe. It will certainly restore your faith in the scary doll Annabelle, but whether you’ll be wanting to see more from her after this is the question. And I’m not sure I do.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)