Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard
Every October we can expect to see movie studios roll out a few horror movies with the hopes of capitalizing on the public’s insatiable appetite for scares.in the days leading up to Halloween. This year Annabelle is the first one to hit the theaters. If you saw The Conjuring last year, you are already familiar with the title character. It was the creepy doll that was housed in Ed and Lorraine’s occult museum. Annabelle is a prequel to The Conjuring, and basically tells the origin story of the haunted doll.
Let me first out myself as being deathly afraid of old dolls. I distinctly remember a Raggedy Ann doll that terrified me in my parents’ basement, and the clown doll scene in Poltergeist gave me nightmares for years. I can handle blood, guts, torture, Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers, but throw a diabolical antique doll on screen and I’m rendered a quivering mess.
Mia (Annabelle Wallis, her real name) and John (Ward Horton) are a young couple expecting their first child. They are as bland as oatmeal. I saw the movie two days ago and I can’t even remember what John looked like. He’s finishing up his medical schooling, and Mia is busy and preparing for the baby’s arrival. Mia collects creepy dolls and has meticulously arranged them in the baby’s nursery. For reasons beyond me she thinks this will provide the perfect soothing environment for her newborn.
One night John surprises Mia with a large box and when she opens it there is the most hideous doll I have ever seen. If my husband presented me with such a “gift” I would have slapped him across the face, but Mia squeals with delight as if he presented her with a diamond ring. She promptly places the doll on one of the shelves, ensuring that the poor baby will be subjected to its evil glare first thing every morning.
Shortly after the arrival of the doll, Mia and John are brutally attacked by two members of a satanic cult. The female manages to get her hands on Annabelle, and presumably transfers a demon to the doll. Despite getting stabbed in the stomach, Mia delivers a healthy baby and the couple returns to their apartment as if nothing ever happened.
The remainder of the movie pulls out all the tired clichés we’ve seen in countless films. Since John is never around, Mia endures the bulk of of the demon doll’s malevolence. A helpful bookstore owner (poor Alfre Woodard) explains that the demon really wants the soul of Mia’s baby.
Director John R. Leonetti shamefully borrows from Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and Helter Skelter. The most inspired moment in the movie involves a stove and a package of Jiffy Pop Popcorn. Really.
Wallis evidently graduated from the January Jones school of acting, and she can’t carry the film. She wears one expression for most of the movie, and despite all the terrifying things happening around her, Mia remains remarkably calm.
All kidding aside, there is one thing Leonetti got right. Annabelle remains inanimate. Although the doll changes location and at one point levitates, I appreciated the fact that her eyes didn’t snap open or closed and she never physically harms anyone. There are several shots that zoom in on her eyes, and I thought it was much more effective to simply focus on those black, unblinking eyes instead of having her spring to life.
When I watch a horror movie, I have one simple request: scare me. Despite all the silliness, Annabelle did just that. I jumped at least five times. I’ve read that that the trailers ruin most those moments, but I don’t watch trailers, so I was sufficiently spooked. That’s enough for me not to consider the movie a complete waste of time, but unless your date ropes you into seeing it, I would wait until it comes out on DVD. — Shannon