ANNABELLE-United States-98 Mins. 2014
Annabelle Wallis as Mia in Annabelle
Ward Horton as John in Annabelle
Alfre Woodard as Evelyn in Annabelle
Directed by John R. Leonetti
Written by Gary Dauberman
There’s an effectively frightening scene near the midway point of Annabelle. My wife and I both felt the goosebumps grow on our arms and she leaned over and whispered that she felt a chill run down her spine. My response in return was “Good because up to now this movie has been completely boring.”
Annabelle as we know is a prequel to last year’s creepy and genuinely scary The Conjuring and of course the titular object, a haunted doll, is featured in the prologue of that film and the same scene is featured as the prologue here, in Annabelle. The powers that be came up with the notion that if Annabelle the doll was scary for five minutes in one film then it would be equally scary and carry a 90-plus minute film. I have to hand it to them; it must have looked good on paper.
The plot of Annabelle is interesting and it does play out quite well. A young expectant couple, John and Mia Gordon, move into a new home and the husband buys the doll for his wife as a gift. That same night they endure a home invasion from the members of a satanic cult and when one of the cult members is killed her blood drips on the doll and before you know it the paranormal activity commences. As usual it starts out small-a sewing machine that turns on by itself, finding Annabelle in unexplained locations and rocking chairs that seem to rock on their own a little longer than they should. When things escalate and we realize that the demonic force behind Annabelle is after the Gordon’s infant child things begin to pick up and the film becomes scary despite borrowing (stealing?) from better horror films; Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist being two of them. Unfortunately it’s not enough to save the movie.
The problem I saw with Annabelle was not so much in the direction and the writing-although neither was a big help seeing as how there were way too many convenient plot devices to keep the movie going; it was in the characterization. The Gordon’s, especially Mia, move around as if they’re on Prozac and it seems as if she doesn’t raise her voice above a whisper except when necessary. The other thing that burned my balls is that, until the finale, Mia didn’t express all that much concern that her child was in danger from supernatural and sinister forces. There are a few scenes where Mia is noticeably afraid but for the most part she barely registers. I also had fun with the technical and historic mistakes I caught in the film, some of which I list here:
In one scene there is a bag of Taco Doritos on the kitchen table. Doritos were introduced in 1966. Taco Doritos, as far as I can tell, were introduced in 1968. Annabelle takes place in 1967.
In a scene where John is holding the Gordon’s infant daughter the blanket she is wrapped in switches perspective from front to back.
Part of Annabelle takes place six months later and yet the Gordon’s baby looks no older than she did prior.
Am I nitpicking the film? Yes and I certainly don’t apologize for it. In the right hands Annabelle could have been a film to rival The Conjuring in terms of genuine fright. Instead we get this lifeless, disappointing mess.
The real Annabelle doll is a large “Raggedy Ann” doll. The Warrens had a special case built for Annabelle inside their Occult Museum, where she resides to this day.
Annabelle is the first name of the actress who plays Mia.
Annabelle Wallis also appears in Body of Lies and X-Men: First Class.
Ward Horton also appears in Letting Go and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Alfre Woodard also appears in Primal Fear and K-Pax.