“Annabelle” is a spin-off of the James Wan movie “The Conjuring.” After receiving a creepy looking “vintage” doll from her husband, things quickly get out of hand as cultists attack and conjure up an evil entity that possesses the doll and then tries to kill them…. Or does it? Read more to find out!
Most American horror movies do too much, too soon. That’s why they’re predicable and not scary in the slightest. Not showing the monster/ghost/killer firetruck right away and creating a spooky unsettling ambiance to make the audience think it will appear far sooner that it actually does, is scarier and much more suspenseful than blowing your monster load faster than a 16 year old virgin within the first 15 minutes of the movie.
Unfortunately, “Annabelle” follows this chintzy formula to make it one of the most pathetic and incompetent evil killer dolls in the history of killer doll movies.
Even the Zuni Fetish Doll from “Trilogy of Terror” has more cunning and personality than Annabelle does, and that’s saying a lot, considering that it’s just a crazed muppet with a flapping head that screams “Ay yi yi yi yi!” while flailing its noodle arms about and stabbing at poor Amelia with a razor sharp spear from Hell, or was that Zimbabwe… Whatever. Same difference.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with “The Conjuring”, the Annabelle doll is a subplot of the movie. Ed and Lorraine Warren speak about the doll, and the movie opens with the story of Annabelle terrorizing some poor girls in their apartment. Annabelle later shows up to be super creepy during one of the more tense scenes in “The Conjuring” and is then once more locked up in it’s glass cage, complete with warning sign like it’s a vicious attack dog or something.
The movie “Annabelle” is a direct spin-off of “The Conjuring.” But it doesn’t feature Ed and Lorrain Warren. Instead it covers the origins of Annabelle and how the doll became so freaking evil, albeit in the poorest way possible.
Since “The Conjuring” was so effectively executed as a traditional haunted house film, it was a bit exciting when news of the Annabelle spin-off movie was announced. But as soon as we saw the trailer, we knew that it was going to be a bad movie. (Didn’t your mother ever tell you that trailers have all the best parts of the movie shown in them? Well if she didn’t, shame on her! Because they do!)
So, to act as a sort of tie-in, Annabelle begins with the same opening sequences from “The Conjuring.” It’s the 1970s and some young kids were terrorized by the evil doll, and then the movie transitions to Mia and John Gordon, a young married couple that are expecting their first child. Mia is a stereotypical stay-at-home mom from the 70s; she cooks, she sews (constantly) and is busy putting together a cute little nursery for their bundle of joy while her husband is busy bringing home the bacon.
They go about their idyllic 70s nuclear family lives, until one night their very friendly neighbors are attacked and killed. Mia, pregnant and alone, calls her husband first, then the cops. Why? I have no idea… Soon after she is attacked by a woman that really likes her doll and her crazy cultist boyfriend. Yay!
“Annabelle” could’ve really bought into the STRANGER DANGER zeitgeist that occurred after the Manson Family cult murders, but it barely scratches the surface. A pair of derange white robed cultists breaks into their home, steals the prized butt-ugly Annabelle doll and then tries to kill a pregnant Mia by stabbing her in the belly (which directly mirrors the very first murder that the Manson Family committed during their killing spree in the 1960s). The husband runs in to save the day and then the usual cop rigmarole occurs, and the crazy couple that attempted to murder them are labeled as being Satanic, with no true explanation as to how they knew that’s what they were. And that’s all she wrote on that topic! Seriously, it is automatically assumed that they are Satanists and not mentally ill or drug crazed lunatics or thugs from the local hot dog vendor mob that want their protection money from the locals.
Were they SATANIC? Again, a cult having interest in the occult is an automatic Satanist card in Hollywood. I mean, they call themselves the Disciples of the Ram, which sounds more like a heavy metal hair band from the 1980s than anything else.
Fun Fact: According to the Bloody Whisper Continuity Police, the occult book is lying open on the coffee table, BEFORE Mia actually gets it from the book store.
The baby survives, thankfully, and so too does the Annabelle doll.. Um, yay?
At this point, Mia is very pregnant and told to get as much bed rest as possible and to not sit up or stand for very long. So what does she do? She sits up sewing for hours at a time while watching soap operas. Because that makes perfect sense. Then, after the husband leaves for work, again! Damn, that’s all that man ever does! And Annabelle decides that she can’t wait to eat any longer and turns on the stove and make some off-brand Jiffy Pop.
After a Jiffy Pop induced house fire, (yes you read that right, their house is almost completely subsumed by fire caused by off-brand Jiffy Pop being left on the stove. Hey, the ghost/demon/evil doll got hungry!) they move into an apartment complex that just so happens to have two creepy little kids living in the stairwell, and is within walking distance of a fancy occult bookshop that is stupidly named Old Towne Books. Yeah, that screams occult book store to me!
As Mia goes for a leisurely stroll one day, she passes by Ye Olden Towne Bookes and the camera lingers on a specific book displayed in the window titled, “The Devil’s Welcome.”
We call this one Chekhov’s Book:
“The Devil’s Welcome” is seen in the occult book store shop several times before the character goes in to talk with the owner and is given the book to read about the cult that is after her.
Soon after they move into their new place the usual “Oh no my family is being terrorized by a possessed doll that may or may not be the devil or ghost!” thing goes down. The demon/ghost/possessed doll or whatever it truly is supposed to be, wants Mia’s soul (the soul of an innocent) for something that is never truly defined. The catch is that the soul has to be given freely. So, why is it that the entities (yes, that’s right, it’s more than one thing) are actively trying to kill her throughout the movie if she needs to give her soul over willingly, like a gift?
Seriously! Who wants to take her soul? The ghost or the demon? Is the ghost supposed to be a representation of the demon? Is the demon pretending to be ghosts now? Or is the ghost pretending to be a demon? What is possessing the doll?! Make up your mind movie! UGHGHGHGHHHHH
“Annabelle” is so full of cliches, it’s sad.
Here’s a not-so-brief list of the worst offenders:
- Spooky kids making spooky drawings that predict the future. Oh look, a trail of crayon drawings depicting a character’s death! Yeah. That’s ORIGINAL.
- Jump scares for Everyone!
- Spoopy music is spoopy. Music that gives away what is about to happen, repeatedly, because to make jump scares, one must make the music as LOUD AS POSSIBLE! Because, loud is scary!
- Very pregnant woman has no sense of smell whatsoever. Aren’t pregnant ladies supposed to have heightened sense of smell? Why is it that a ton of horror films ignore the fact that characters have a sense of smell? Ever burn popcorn in the microwave or on the stove top? Yeah. It reeks. It’s highly unbelievable that no one would notice it’s cooking, let alone burning and catching on fire!
- A Goat-headed demon! (We think his name is Bill.)
- Spooky basement is spooky!
- Cpt. Obvious. “Crazy people do crazy things ma’am.” Well thank you police detective Cpt. Obvious. We never would’ve figured that one out!
- Only A Priest Can Help! Yes, a Catholic Priest is more qualified to help someone with anxiety than a therapist. This couple goes from playing thumb wars in the church during a sermon, to turning to the priest for help. I thought they didn’t take it seriously. Make up your mind movie!
- All the “scary” ghost moments are so predictable, it’s annoying.
- Runaway baby carriage. Huh. Where have we seen that before? Oh yeah. “Ghostbusters II.”
- Haunted/possessed elevator
- Sad, lonely house wife that just had a baby is vulnerable and full of anxiety.
- Lots of thumping noises a la “House on Haunted Hill.”
- Playing a record backwards because all songs are Satanic when played backwards on a record player.
- Evil Doll in the back of the car that is going to kill you routine. It is highly possible that Chucky in “Child’s Play” started that one. We could be wrong though.
In fact, “Annabelle” is so chockablock of cliches, that it actually made up two of it’s own! The first one is the dropped red crayon and music box melody from “The Conjuring” cliche. The second one is the “I tried to kill myself, my dead daughter said it wasn’t my time and that God had another purpose for me, which apparently was to wait until the end of the movie to commit suicide” cliche. Yep. That actually happens in this movie.
This is the same character that says to Mia, “Their act wasn’t devotional, they were trying to CONJURE something up.” Real clever dropping the name of the movie that this is a spin-off of in a line guys.
The thing that really annoys me about the occult book store owner is that she figures out what is going in within 10 seconds of being told the story and refers to the demon/ghost/evil doll as an inhuman spirit. Why the hell would she call it an inhuman spirit? That is strictly a Warren turn of phrase!
Fun Fact: Annabelle the doll was named after the crazy Higgins girl that told Mia she liked it and then attempted to kill her and ended up killing herself instead. Who would’ve thought!
Subtlety in haunted doll movies is a lost art. Don’t start with sewing machines running by themselves. Start with the doll showing up in different spots in a room than where she was put so the characters find it strange, but think they moved it and just forgot about it. Then slowly make other things in the house start behaving strangely. Don’t use up all the scary freaky stuff that the ghost can do within the first scene it’s introduced! That’s bad pacing, and does nothing but make the movie fall flat on its face in the final act.
The movie would’ve been better if it had been about the girls that told the original Annabelle story in “The Conjuring” as opposed to the doll’s origin story. Especially since this movie can’t decide what is possessing the doll and why it’s evil. The demon appears out of nowhere. Then the ghosts, then demons, then the doll, then the demon, then the ghosts… you get my drift.
“I love internally inconsistent movies!” said no one ever.
We can safely say that “Annabelle” is a good study in how not to make a scary movie. It is far too predictable. There are hints of a good movie in there, but it just doesn’t deliver. It’s like ordering a supreme deluxe meat lovers pizza (mmmm, pizza!), and getting a cheap ass microwave pepperoni pizza from the corner gas station delivered to your house instead. That’s how disappointing “Annabelle” is, it’s like eating cardboard microwave pizza, like the kind they used to serve in public school cafeterias in the 80’s. It’s that bad.
“Annabelle”, you disappoint. You couldn’t even CONJURE up a good story if you tried!