Annabelle: Creation (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★
As can be expected from a solid horror picture, “Annabelle: Creation,” directed by David F. Sandberg, is able to deliver the requisite scares alongside a story with intrigue. Once paranormal activities begin to terrorize the curious orphans who recently move into the Mullins’ home (Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto), just about every other scene builds up to something—whether it be an alarming moment or a piece of the puzzle that sheds light on the possible reasons of the haunting inside and around the property. Clearly, it is a significant improvement from the uninspired, waste of time predecessor “Annabelle.”
Some scares are noticeably more effective than others. Pay close attention to scenes that revolve around Janice (Tabitha Eliana Bateman) and her seeming inability to refrain from investigating a strange noise. Because the character is crippled by polio, the movement of the camera must adapt to how fast she can move. This makes for a compelling watch because she simply cannot run out of the room as a demonic presence closes in. A shot that usually requires a split second turns into a second, maybe a second-and-a-half, and it makes a whole world of difference when it comes to amplifying the tension.
Weaker parts involve a lack of restraint when CGI is utilized. Aside from ostentatious display of black smoke and shadow looking utterly fake, at times I found the appearance of the demon to be laughable. Sometimes showing less really is more and the picture might have benefited greatly from this adage. However, the filmmakers have truly done a great job in not showing the doll move on its own too much. Rotating its head a couple of degrees at the right moment is more than enough to creep out the viewers. I enjoyed it most when the doll does not move at all and the shot simply lingers on its face because we get a chance to ascribe our thoughts and emotions onto it—which ties neatly into what the doll is supposed to be within the scope of this story.
The film is written by Gary Dauberman and it is a welcome surprise that it finds the time to show relationships amongst the orphans (Lulu Wilson, Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard, Taylor Buck, Lou Lou Safran) as well as between the orphans and the nun (Stephanie Sigman) in charge of their overall wellbeing. Similar works with poor writing tend to paint awkward and unconvincing connections between characters while not doing a good job in crafting horrifying situations. Or worse—they do not bother with it at all. Here, there is a smooth flow between character development and inflicting terror.
“Annabelle: Creation” offers nothing new or exciting to the genre, but it does offer old-school frights and entertainment. Horror fans who appreciate the unfolding of a scene—especially in silence when we hear only footsteps, the creaking of a door, a bell from afar—rather than being bombarded with evanescent jolts and annoying loud noises are likely to be pleasantly surprised. It tweaks enough usual tricks for us to overlook some of the clichés.