A very creepy doll returns to haunt your dreams in the horror flick Annabelle: Creation.
You may recall 2014’s Annabelle but this is actually a prequel set years before that film. Creation is considered the fourth installment in the super spooky Conjuring universe.
A dollmaker and his wife (Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto) suffer an unimaginable tragedy after their young daughter is accidentally killed. Twelve years later, the man opens their home to a nun (Stephanie Sigman) and several orphaned girls. Their seemingly happy new life takes a sinister turn once strange occurrences start happening, thanks to a possessed doll hell-bent on soul-sucking revenge.
For the most part, Creation is a worthy origin tale that contains a predictable plot but makes up for it with plenty of frightful sequences.
Some convincing performances, particularly from two young actresses, really help sell the story. Lulu Wilson (who starred in last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil) carries the film’s multitude of tense moments. Meanwhile, Talitha Bateman’s character, who is recovering from polio and requires crutches, is extremely effective at conveying the sheer terror that befalls the group.
Anthony LaPaglia is commanding in his small role and Miranda Otto (24: Legacy, Homeland) brings a welcome sense of gravitas, as his bedridden wife, but could have used more screen time. Narcos star Stephanie Sigman also does a commendable job as she’s forced to eventually take matters into her own hands to save the kids.
But, is the movie scary? If you find the idea of a creepy demonic porcelain doll that stalks children frightening, then yes. It’s a testament to the creators that an immobile villain who doesn’t talk and masquerades as a children’s toy can be so positively chilling.
There are numerous jump scares throughout the film that work well even if you can see a lot of them coming a mile away. Other spooky visual elements include eerie passing shadows in a dark room or a pair of disturbing glowing eyes in the closet; these scenes speak to the strong technical aspects the movie.
David F. Sandberg, director of 2016’s decent Lights Out, clearly has a strong grasp of framing and where to put the camera in order to conjure the most thrills and chills. In addition, cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, who also worked on flicks like The Hills Have Eyes and Ryan Reynolds’ underappreciated The Voices, lights the scenes impeccably and leaves just enough to the imagination.
Granted, Creation definitely has its fair share of unintentional laughs and plot points that strain credulity. In one instance, the house occupants survive yet another terrifying encounter but, instead of getting the hell out of there, they just decide to go upstairs and get ready for bed. However, some of the comedy is deliberate and it actually serves to lighten the otherwise grim affair.
When it comes to story, the movie plays it fairly straightforward with not a lot of twists or surprises to be found. Yet, a permeating sense of female empowerment, given the lack of a hunky male character who saves the day, is refreshing. The film also boasts the distinction of being a much stronger feature than its rather forgettable predecessor from three years ago.
Despite a familiar plot and several genre clichés, this chilling thriller provides some genuine scares and nestles nicely into the successful Conjuring franchise. Annabelle: Creation gets 3 out of 5 pieces of popcorn.
Playing at a theatre near you. Rated 14A and is 109 minutes long.