Annabelle was rushed into production after summer 2013’s The Conjuring turned out to be a huge hit and one of the better genre flicks in recent memory. The title character is a wide-eyed, creepy doll who turned up memorably in a supporting role in the aforementioned production. Here she gets her own feature and it feels exactly like a rushed project meant to tide fans over until the legitimate Conjuring sequel. Annabelle was shot on a smaller budget and looks cheaper.
The picture deems it necessary to open with a title card explaining the history of dolls and then footage of The Conjuring to remind us why we just spent our dough. We flash back to 1969 (one year prior to Conjuring’s haunted happenings) where dull Dr. John (Ward Horton) and pregnant wifey Mia (Annabelle – woah – Wallis) gain the attention of our demonic doll after some cult figures (think Manson) invade their home. Moving doesn’t help. Annabelle has no issues making the journey to Pasadena with our non-descript couple. Alfre Woodard turns up as a bookstore owner who helps Mia understand what’s happening with Tony Amendola in the well worn role as a priest trying to assist.
Annabelle tries to generate its scares though sound effects and lingering shots of our doll staring. We keep waiting for those huge eyes to move. It all worked much better in The Conjuring and especially in Rosemary’s Baby, which director John Leonetti pays occasional tribute to. Most distressingly, the tone is far too somber. It’s about a crazy and vengeful kids doll after all. Chucky might’ve helped. There a couple of mildly hair rising moments, but not near enough. This was designed to provide leftovers to hungry Conjuring fans but it’s unlikely to satisfy.
** (out of four)