Annabelle: Creation

 

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The demonically possessed doll of the title is back in a nonsensical, hackneyed prequel.

   

Annabelle: Creation

A crying, talking, screaming, walking, living doll: Talitha Bateman sucks up the atmosphere

 

Not all horror films are bad. And not all prequels are a waste of time. However, David F. Sandberg's Annabelle: Creation goes some way in confirming the accepted wisdom. For the record, it’s a precursor to John R. Leonetti's Annabelle (2014) which, itself, was a precursor to James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013). And the chapters in the franchise don’t just retreat in time, but in quality, too. This one features the demonically possessed doll of the title and takes us back to its creation and to its creator. The latter is Samuel Mullins, a grim-faced, slow-moving doll-maker who lives in a massive house in the middle of nowhere. Quite how he came by such an extravagant property is not explained, although it’s made clear that there is a demand for his dolls which, also apparent, take him some time to create. He is played by the 58-year-old Australian actor Anthony LaPaglia and his wife by the Australian actress Miranda Otto. They are the parents of a young girl called Bee, who looks like their granddaughter and meets an untimely death. Already one might be scratching one’s head and expecting everything to be resolved, but nothing ever is.

 

This is the sort of horror film in which nothing is clarified until the final minutes when there’s really no time to explain anything. The house in which Samuel and Esther live is possessed by the evil spirit of Bee, who’s presumably still upset that her parents were so old when she was little. So, Samuel and Esther decide to share their haunted house with six orphan girls and a nun, believing that Bee will behave herself. Maybe Samuel just likes young girls around the place. He’s a lugubrious figure, unable to crack a smile and obviously suffering from the guilt of owning such a large place, which his new wards refer to as “a castle.” The central character is the plucky Janice (Talitha Bateman), a girl with polio and so all the more vulnerable to the manic onslaughts of the petulant ghost of Bee.

 

Quite when the film is set, or where, is largely a mystery. All we need to know is that these defenceless girls are far, far away from civilisation and have only their wits to defend them. And so the usual tropes are trotted out, in which the characters fail to share their suspicions until it’s too late and manage to sleep soundly at night even when all hell is being unleashed. Nothing makes sense, no character resembles a genuine human being and the clichéd shock effects, when they come, are brain-numbingly routine. Even the post-credit teaser is totally devoid of imagination.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson, Philippa Coulthard, Grace Fulton, Samara Lee, Annabelle Wallis.

 

Dir David F. Sandberg, Pro Peter Safran and James Wan, Screenplay Gary Dauberman, Ph Maxime Alexandre, Pro Des Jennifer Spence, Ed Michel Aller, Music Benjamin Wallfisch, Costumes Leah Butler.

 

New Line Cinema/Atomic Monster Productions/The Safran Company-Warner Bros.

108 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 11 August 2017. Cert. 15.