Review: ‘Annabelle: Creation’ has so much tension that you can’t breathe

Marcus Goh
Contributor
Linda (Lulu Wilson) in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Secret ending: More than one 

Running time: 109 minutes (~1.75 hours)

Linda (Lulu Wilson) in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

“Annabelle: Creation” is an American horror movie in English. It is a prequel to “Annabelle”, and the fourth instalment in “The Conjuring” film franchise.

The film depicts the origin of the haunted doll, Annabelle. When a group of orphaned girls are taken in by an old couple whose daughter passed away from a horrific accident, they discover that the deceased girl’s beloved doll, Annabelle, may not be as harmless as it seems.

“Annabelle: Creation” is directed by David F. Sandberg and written by Gary Dauberman. It stars Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte), Talitha Bateman (Janice), Lulu Wilson (Linda), Philippa Coulthard (Nancy), Grace Fulton (Carol), Lou Lou Safran (Tierney), Samara lee (Annabelle “Bee” Mullins), Tayler Buck (Kate), Anthony LaPaglia (Samuel Mullins), and Miranda Otto (Esther Mullins). It is rated NC-16.

Linda (Lulu Wilson) in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Lulu Wilson should look familiar to fans of the horror genre as she also appeared in last year’s “Ouija: Origin of Evil”. One can only imagine what it must be like for the 11-year-old (she turns 12 in October) to star in multiple horror films. However, she brings a wonderful innocence and vulnerability to the film, which contrasts well against Annabelle’s overtly disturbing and evil appearance. “Annabelle: Creation” is tale of the how such a horrific doll came to be, and is a satisfyingly scary movie.

Who will survive in “Annabelle: Creation”? (Warner Bros Pictures)

Highlights

Tense

There is so much tension at times that you can’t breathe. The film starts with the expectation that audiences know that the titular haunted doll, Annabelle, will be the source of the character’s troubles. It doesn’t attempt to lull you into false sense of security. Instead, it builds on your anticipation that various unexplained things or creatures will be leaping out to attack the protagonists, and exploits your expectations into thick and cloying suspense. You won’t ever let your guard down while watching “Annabelle: Creation”, because the film won’t let you.

Janice (Tabitha Bateman) in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Terror of the unseen

Given that Annabelle’s visage is rather well known, the film no longer uses her as a way to frighten viewers. Instead, it plays on what lingers just out of sight, and creates all sorts of unexplained phenomena to scare the audience. You’re always expecting to see the force behind the hauntings, and the film skilfully drops fleeting glimpses and eerie hints of the thing that is behind it all. What frightens you most is what you can’t see, and you can’t shake the feeling that “Annabelle: Creation” knows that.

Who will survive in “Annabelle: Creation”? (Warner Bros Pictures)

Themes of duality

Visually, the director also plays upon the duality of innocence and evil in many shots and scenes. Characters are frequently framed in a way where they’re half in light, and half in shadow, and many locations are lit with harsh lighting cutting across the room, while the rest of it is in shadow. This plays upon the idea that both innocence and evil can lurk in the same person and place. Act Three cements this idea with a startling development that leads in to “Annabelle”.

Esther Mullins (Miranda Otto) in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Frights take priority

The film also focuses fully on the frights first, and the story second. While this might work against normal films, the challenge for the creators of “Annabelle: Creation” is that the audience already knows Annabelle will survive (it is a prequel, after all), and if she does, then the main characters aren’t likely to have positive fates. With that in mind, it quickly explains what you need to know and compresses expositional scenes to the minimum, and focuses on scaring you as much as possible. It’s a good directorial decision to take, as unorthodox as it may be.

Linda (Lulu Wilson) in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson deliver excellent performances

The two young child stars anchor the film by showing us the stakes of “Annabelle: Creation” in as emotional a way as possible. They’re given character development and a backstory that helps you to empathise with them and recognise their vulnerability. As a result, when they fall victim to Annabelle, you’re scared not just because she’s malevolent, but also because the two young girls are in peril.

A tea party in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Letdowns

You don’t see Annabelle the doll as much you’d expect

However, since Annabelle the doll is the object/creature that sets into motion the events of the film, you’d expect to see more shots of her. She’s not on camera as much as you’d expect, and neither do we have as many lingering shots of the doll that “Annabelle” had. Then again, those shots may not work given what audiences know of the doll, so more shots of Annabelle may not have necessarily improved the movie, though it would have met expectations.

Janice (Tabitha Bateman) in “Annabelle: Creation”. (Warner Bros Pictures)

“Annabelle: Creation” takes one of the most innocent aspects of childhood, a beloved toy, and shows us how it can be perverted into something so terrifying that it now evokes a completely different feeling in people. It’s an excellent horror movie that mixes different types of scares into a tension-filled story that you know can only result in one outcome. The fact that you know how it will all end, and that it still continues to scare you, is testament to the power and terrifying beauty of “Annabelle: Creation”.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you like horror.

Score: 3.75/5

“Annabelle: Creation” opens in cinemas:
– 9 August, 2017 (Singapore)
– 10 August, 2017 (Malaysia)
– 23 August, 2017 (Philippines)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Police & Thief”, “Incredible Tales”, “Crimewatch”, and “Point of Entry”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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