The wheels on the Conjuring cinematic universe continue to turn in the perfectly passable spin-off prequel Annabelle: Creation.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Annabelle: Creation, the second spin-off on the possessed demonic doll, shifts to an earlier period to chart her terrifying origins. The plot sees rural dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) open their home to Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and six orphaned girls who are in need of a place to stay, but a dark secret from their past threatens to return to the fold and turn the peaceful ranch into a house of horrors.
With David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) at the helm, Annabelle: Creation successfully captures the same old school thrills and spills of the original Conjuring films, with everything from the period setting to the relatively slow pacing feeling decidedly old fashioned. The two main cast members – Talitha Bateman as a disabled girl called Janice and Lulu Wilson as her caring best friend Linda – are both effective leads and do a wonderful job of carrying the film, as the adult cast takes a backseat for most of the 109-minute runtime.
Sandberg’s direction is also a highlight; the relative newcomer mixes minimal CGI with focus pulls that engulf the frame in darkness and force the viewer to scan the screen for even the slightest hint of creepy goings-on. This is a film where the camerawork, editing and cinematography effectively draw you into the story, even if everything about the colour-by-numbers plot feels familiar.
Essentially Annabelle: Creation is a ghostly haunted house ride that runs on the rails and provides an intermittent, albeit predictable, jump scare or two before rolling back into the light of day so you can scurry along to the next amusement. You’ll be shifting in your seat and peering through your eyelashes while you’re in the theatre, but there really isn’t anything meaty to get your teeth into once you peel back the clever camera tricks.
Great horror films are often heralded as such because they make you unsettled in your very core as well as making your skin crawl; think of recent successes such as It Follows, The Babadook and The Witch. Unfortunately, Annabelle: Creation is more generic than this list and ends up placing somewhere firmly in the middle of the horror movie spectrum. Good but not great, I’d only recommend checking it out at the theatre if you’re a sucker for The Conjuring series and its lore or schlocky and clichéd horror in general.
Annabelle: Creation is available in Australian cinemas from August 10
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films