I’m a big fan of The Conjuring. It’s easily one of my favourite scary movies in recent years, successfully hitting the right notes for me when it comes to big scares. I wasn’t such a fan of the opening scenes featuring Annabelle though, and The Conjuring 2 didn’t quite do it for me either, so when the spin off Annabelle movie came out in 2014, I gave it a miss. Even more so when it received some pretty average reviews. It’s been on my Netflix watch-list for sometime now, and I’m sure I will watch it out of curiosity at some point, but for now I can take it or leave it. When I saw the trailer for Annabelle: Creation though, it definitely grabbed my interest. More so than the previous movie. The fact that it was set before the last one and could be watched without needing to have seen it either was also a big plus point as far as I was concerned.
This movie takes us right back to the creation of the Annabelle doll itself, before introducing us to the evil part that we’re familiar with (although to be fair, even if the doll wasn’t evil, who the hell is going to want a doll that looks like that?!). It’s 1957 and Samuel Mullins lives with his wife Esther and their young daughter. Samuel is a master toy-maker, handcrafting dolls in the workshop located within the grounds of their house. But tragedy strikes one day, and the family is destroyed when the daughter is killed.
The story picks up again 12 years later with a group of orphan girls who are traveling with their caretaker, Sister Charlotte, to go and live with the Mullins in their large, empty house. They’re welcomed inside by Mr Mullins who tells them that their rooms are all upstairs. There’s a locked room upstairs that they’re not to go into, but you kind of know they will do at some point, and the Mullins room is downstairs. Mrs Mullins is now bed-ridden following an event that we do not yet know about, but otherwise the girls are free to go explore and enjoy the house as they wish. One of the younger girls, Janice, can only walk with the aid of a leg brace and crutch, so is happy to discover that there is even a stair-lift installed to help her get upstairs.
Not much happens for the first twenty minutes or so, but the movie does an excellent job of introducing us to the large isolated house and the potential for scares to be had later in the movie. That stair-lift I just mentioned – it goes nice and slow and only works if you’ve managed to click the seat-belt in. The nearby barn – that’s got a big scarecrow hanging inside with a terrifying evil looking sandbag face. There’s a deep, sinister looking well nearby too. Inside there’s an out of use dumbwaiter lift and a whole host of other places to hide. You know it’s all going to be put to good use later on, and with Janice not being able to walk so well, you can’t help thinking that this is only going to add the tension even more.
When things do kick off, it’s all very well executed. There are actually some surprisingly effective BANG scares following moments of quietness and some genuinely creepy stuff of nightmares. And yes, that tension that I mentioned involving Janice and her disability, is played to maximum effect. Janice and her room mate Linda are both brilliant in this and are totally convincing as they come to terms with and try fighting back against the evil that’s plaguing them.
For me, this was almost as good as The Conjuring. I got a similar feeling from this, particularly with regard to the setting, the cast and the type of scares involved, which I really liked. As a side note, I also really love how this type of movie tends to attract groups of teenage boys and girls to the cinema. There’s nothing like watching this in a dark screening, hearing a mixture of fake bravado from the boys along with gasps/petrified hyperventilating from both the boys and girls! It really does add to the overall enjoyment!