Sunday, October 22, 2017

Annabelle: Creation and a Haunted House Film Ride: A Blu-ray Review

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*full disclosure: a Blu-ray screener of this film was provided by Warner Bros.

Director: David F. Sandberg.

Writers: Gary Dauberman.

Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Samara Lee, Miranda Otto, Stephanie Sigman and Talitha Eliana Bateman.

Annabelle: Creation is latest film set in an expanding Conjuring film universe. This title is a prequel to the first Annabelle (2014) movie. Very much an origin story, Annabelle: Creation explores the curse of a very recognizable doll. The film was written by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote the first Annabelle. In this outing, six orphans find a new, haunted place to live. Isolated on an old farm, the six girls are harassed by either a Devil doll or very dark demon. The focus on this title is on developing creepy scenes. Very much like a haunted house ride put to film, Annabelle: Creation offers one well rehearsed scare after another. The film is also a popcorn flick, with no real underlining message. Still, Annabelle: Creation is a fun film, which will entertain the majority of horror fans, this Halloween season.

Annabelle: Creation is set in the early '40s, initially. After a family tragedy, the film pushes ahead twelve years. Now, six orphans enter the scene. They are happy with their new residence, an old farmhouse. However, their initial excitement changes to terror, when a dead girl re-enters her home. Her spirit is being partially controlled by a demon. Together, they make a terrible and murderous twosome. Janice (Talitha Eliana Bateman), a young orphan, turns to the dark side - making this a trio of terror. And, who wins when the spiritual and physical collide? The viewer.

The Conjuring film universe is starting to become somewhat complicated. James Wan directed the initial The Conjuring, way back in 2013. Since 2013, there has already been one sequel for The Conjuring, in 2016. Annabelle: Creation precedes both of these films. Annabelle: Creation also takes place before the first Annabelle film. Though, fans will be excited to see a direct connection between both films, late in this feature. As well, there are plans to bring another spin-off out of The Conjuring film universe, with The Nun. This latest film is expected to release in 2018. Within Annabelle: Creation, The Nun is referenced at least twice: in an old photo and in the final scene (after the credits). The Conjuring film universe is beginning to weave a complex web.

This latest title focuses on a number of creepy scenes. Very early on, a shadowy figure lurks in the background as Janice tries out her new chair lift. A demon's presence becomes more disconcerting, when its glowing eyes shine in the darkness. The cursed doll also makes an appearance early in the film. She is housed in a blessed room, but still finds time to escape (of course). There is also a scarecrow, in a nearby barn. This viewer enjoyed this minor malevolent character. Though, its movements and presence were minimalized. One of the best scenes in the film involves Janice, after she has been possessed by the demon. She stabs into a doll's face, while stating: "she looks just like you." The character being threatened, Linda (Lulu Wilson), is less than impressed. All of theses scenes and many more create the appropriate horror mood and tone.

The film plays out very much like a haunted house ride, set to film. Though, a couple of story elements are missing. There is no underlining message within the film. Why was this hardworking couple targeted by a demon? The Mullins, Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther (Miranda Otto), are relentlessly tortured by the demon. But why? They are decent folks and victims of a tragedy. So, why would evil find a place in their home? Also, the origin of the central antagonist is never explored. What brought it into being and where did it come from? There is no real mythos to the film and that is a bit disappointing. Finally, the film lacks an underlining message. The story material here will not make you question very much and that is fine. Not every film needs explore deeper topics. Annabelle: Creation should just be enjoyed for what it is - a bit of supernatural fun.

Annabelle: Creation released this past Summer, in theatres. Fellow 28DLA writer Ed Sum reviewed it back then (Ed Sum's Annabelle: Creation Review). Since the Summer, this film has grossed millions. It is now set for a home theatrical release. And, it is already showing through Video-on-demand (Oct. 17th). It will also show on a Blu-ray/DVD combo (Oct. 24th). This is the version reviewed here. Annabelle: Creation brings a number of villains to screen. Though somewhat poorly developed, these demonic characters create many of the film's creepiest scenes. Janice is also at her devilish best. Annabelle: Creation is very much a popcorn flick and should be enjoyed this Halloween season. As The Conjuring universe continues to expand, it will be interesting to see who Annabelle tortures next.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10.

*there are a number of featurettes on the Blu-ray release, including directing, writing and producer insights.

The first film reviewed on 28DLA: An Annabelle (2014) Review

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