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Non-Review Review: Annabelle – Creation

The issue with Annabelle: Creation is not one of skill or technique. Annabelle: Creation is a very well-crafted and well-constructed horror film. The issue is that Annabelle: Creation never quite figures out what kind of horror film it wants to be.

Annabelle: Creation struggles with tone. The movie bounces between extremes. At some points, it feels like it wants to be a genuinely dark and unsettling study of trauma and exploitation, a harrowing horror movie metaphor for some of the worst terrors that could be inflicted upon its young cast in their remote location. At other points, it is a much more conventional action horror movie, combining the blockbuster thrills approach of The Conjuring with the almost playful concept-driven self-aware scares of Lights Out.

Eye, Creepy Demonic Doll.

The movie often feels caught between these two approaches, repeatedly suggesting something much darker nestled at the core of what is a fairly solid and fairly recognisable horror template. There are moments when Annabelle: Creation is skin-crawlingly effective, and there are moments when the film cleverly punctuates its scares with awkward-laugh-out-loud moments of stress relief. In isolation, David Sandberg balances both approaches quite well.

The problem comes in trying to blend them together.

“Give me a moment, I’ve got to put my face on.”

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Non-Review Review: Annabelle

Annabelle certainly looks pretty. Not the doll, of course. The doll looks like the children’s toy version of Jack Nicholson. There is something immediately and effectively intense about the figure at the centre of this horror spin-off, to the point where it’s hard to imagine anybody wanting the toy in their home in the first place. To paraphrase Stephen King’s criticism of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, it is not a question of if this doll will start killing people, but when.

However, the production design on Annabelle is quite striking. It very much a period horror film in the way that The Conjuring was a period horror film. This time, we are visiting the sixties rather than the seventies. There are lots of bright colours and stylish clothes, and the film works hard to capture the mood and aesthetic of the era – or, at the very least, the era as we remember it. Annabelle feels like a horror film effectively riding the waves of sixties nostalgia that has rocked popular culture in recent years.

Well, it'll never be a collector's item now...

Well, it’ll never be a collector’s item now…

Sadly, Annabelle is not pretty enough to distract from its rather fundamental problems. Its script has some good ideas, but no real idea what to do with them. So, instead, it falls back on a kitchen sink approach to modern horror. The script for Annabelle is a collection of sequences and stock elements copied wholesale from recent films like Insideous or Sinister or The Conjuring. While those films did not necessarily have fresh scares, they were blowing the dust off some very classic horror movie tropes.

Here, it feels almost like reheated leftovers.

A doll's house...

A doll’s house…

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