David F. Sandberg, the maker of this film is a prolific horror film maker who has been making short horror films for film festivals and his YouTube channel “ponysmasher”. I have been following his channel post the success of Lights Out and I believe to understand why Annabelle: Creation is so very interesting and well made one has to understand the superior psyche and techniques that Sandberg has mastered over the years making short films in his own home for mostly himself and his wife.
Ouija: Origin of Evil directed by Mike Flanagan and Annabelle: Creation directed by David F. Sandberg are two films that stand testimony to the fact that when in the right hands even the most average content can rise above a level and become interesting and great. Ouija and Annabelle were both bad films that were both panned by the critics and the viewers alike. However after the reins of the two films were handed over to Flanagan and now Sandberg, the prequels have turned out to be actually good films.
Speaking of Annabelle: Creation, the film relates the story of the creation of the myth of the doll, Annabelle, that was made famous by the Conjuring and then by it’s not so good stand-alone film. We learn that the doll was created by a doll maker known as Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) who soon after loses his daughter Annabelle in a tragic accident. 12 years after the incident, he welcomes a group of orphan girls into his house after their orphanage is taken away from them.
Once the girls arrive, strange things start happening in the Mullins household. One of the girls, Janice (Talitha Bateman) opens up a cupboard that she shouldn’t have and let’s loose a spirit that was trapped there for 12 years. Mr. Mullins also seems to hold some secrets that may hold bad tidings for the girls. Mrs. Mullins (Miranda Otto) is permanently confined to a room and has a face that resembles that of a doll. In the midst of all this, Janice tries to understand what is afoot before the situation gets any worse.
Annabelle: Creation is a horror film and lets’ talk about the chills and thrills first before we proceed any further. There are two types of scares that one can expect in a horror film. The subtle atmospheric scares and the loud jump out scares. A film generally uses either one of the two to set up a tone. Sandberg here uses both types of scares to keep you guessing. There are some really well done subtle scares like the one in which a cloth is put on the doll by Janice, the doll walks towards Janice and when she pulls down the cloth, it’s empty. All this happens without any music or thud. This scene is a direct reference from one of the sequences in Sandberg’s short film Attic Panic but works very well in this setting.
There are also some terrific jump scares like the one in which Janice faces spirit for the first time, the scene where one of the girls has to deal with a scare crow inside the barn and while she is at it, the bulb, lighting the area is coming undone. This is another reference to a scene from Attic Panic where something similar happens. The climactic scene will leave you breathless and exasperated for it is an effective blend of the two styles with loads happening.
Sandberg in his channel has, again and again, emphasized on the importance of sound and how important it is to instill fear. I was happy to note that he has made really good use of the sound here to convey the kind of effects that only sound can provide in order to unnerve you. This is also a very good looking film. It is shot wonderfully and is complete with some really odd angles here and there. I noticed a strange flip of the camera in a scene at the very beginning when the Mullins with their daughter Annabelle is shown coming out of the church. A few sequences later we see an accident that I believe is the single most horrific scene of the film. It is so well shot and so well edited that it is bound to give you a jolt. As mentioned before, the sound design is immaculate.
Annabelle: Creation has a very simple story to tell. It tells a story that we have heard and seen zillion time before. There is absolutely no novelty in the story but what makes this film so good is its execution, the chills, and some terrific performances. The director doesn’t show his cards until the very end and when he finally does, the viewer is so deep into the climax that he fails to notice that the reasons and the myth behind the story are a run of the mills’ affairs.
For a great part of the film, Talitha Bateman through her wonderful act keeps the viewer transfixed on her character. We move around with her as she makes a move through the house trying to uncover the truth. When she is attacked, we empathize with her and want her to be rid of the problems. Her performance is able to extract attention and care from us which in turns makes the story worthwhile. Lulu Wilson, the girl who was the star in Ouija: Origin of Evil lets Talitha be the queen here but chips in with her brilliance every now and then. Anthony LaPaglia shines in a small role.
Overall, Annabelle: Creation is a worthy watch owing to the manner in which Sandberg approaches it. It has everything that a good horror film should have and it ties in beautifully to its predecessor. It also has a brief but interesting reference to the upcoming “The Nun” film which does raise a question or two about the nun Charlotte in the film. It has decent scares, has great performances and excels technically. What more could we ask for?
Rating 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 stars)