The Conjuring Universe is starting to become fascinating interconnected universe with a whole host of spin-offs and prequels and the latest addition is Annabelle: Creation, a prequel about how the demonic doll truly came into being. On the back of the mediocre Annabelle, I was not expecting great things from this one either. However, this is definitely an improvement and, whilst it’s full of quite a bit cliché, it does bring some new ideas to the table with its scares.
The movie opens with little backstory with tragic circumstances surrounding a toymaker and his wife, played by Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto (Eowyn from LotR no less). After a lengthy introduction, we leap forward to many years later where they offer their home for use by a Catholic-run girls orphanage. Then the frights really begin!
A horror film being good instead of mediocre often comes from the strength of its performances- the scares are usually a little guaranteed, but the characters are definitely not so- and the majority of heavy lifting in that department comes from the children. Before you yawn at the prospect of more silly child actors, for the large part, they are awesome. Maybe they make all the typical mistakes that horror film characters are prone to doing but they are children so we can forgive them slightly and the adults don’t fall into the same traps. The main two, played by Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson, are particularly great and have a nice dynamic between them. Bateman’s character has suffered from polio and cannot walk without leg braces or a crutch and she really sells the performance, particularly when a lot of scares rely on her disability.
That’s another place this film excels- the scary bits! Perhaps they are not all highly original and earlier on we are hit with a few too many “boo” moments (in one case, quite literally) but once the action really kicks in, they have some ingenious scares. One moment involving a ball gun thing (this is the best description I could give) stood out for me.
However, as I said up top, it has its flaws and those come mainly from its story which is pretty thin as it is. It really doesn’t go and reinvent any rulebooks and I think you could predict a lot of the twists and turns coming up. However, some moments caught me off-guard, particularly with the ending which I found very clever actually. The second major problem I had was the length actually. Because of the story bringing in an orphanage, there are quite a few girls and quite a few characters and they mostly get given something to do, but in doing so, they dragged the film out a bit much for me, essentially going over the same scares a couple of times because of it. Focus on the two main girls slightly more and it would have played better.
Overall though, I would certainly recommend this film for lovers of horror and this franchise as a whole. It is certainly an improvement on Annabelle and with the universe turning out as it is, James Wan has created something very intriguing here. Annabelle: Creation has clichéd parts but some brilliant child actors and unique scares really bring it up. Get watching!