Review: Annabelle


John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia – a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia’s delight with Annabelle doesn’t last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now…Annabelle.



On paper John R.Leonetti should have been able to knock this out of the park, but ultimately, not withstanding my mixed American sporting metaphors, he fumbles the ball. Big time.Leonetti was the cinematographer on both The Conjuring, and the Insidious movies, so was fairly integral in the overall look of both films. Whilst not all cinematographers successfully make the leap to director, I foundAnnabelle to be guilty of a peculiar sin with a director with such a background. It just didn’t look good.The Conjuring was very grounded in all things early ’70’s, it ‘looked’ like the decade, there was a faded colour palette that had helped, along with some wonderful set design work, to ground the film in a realistic 1971. WithAnnabelle I never believed that I was in the late 60’s, early 70’s, and if the normality, and reality a horror film sets up in order to subvert with the ‘monster’ later isn’t there, then I, as an audience member am notemersed within that reality. Add to that characters that really didn’t engage with me as an audience member, made watching the film, for the most part, a detached experience.

All roads here lead to a studio, eager for a cheap cash cow release for Halloween, pushed this movie into turn around with new cast, director, writers, and less than 12 months from idea to release, and half the budget to boot. Little wonder it doesn’t work.

The real problem though? Even more than the look, rushed script, unappealing characters, cheap production value, rushed schedule, and inevitable studio interference?

The doll isn’t scary.

In The Conjuring Annabelle freaked out audiences around the world, however whatever worked in The Conjuring pretty mush fails at every turn here. There are some frights and jumps, two stand out scenes being, on the stairs, and the bookcase attack. But, even here, I missed the pin point accuracy of Wan, who would have been able to have wrung even more terror from these scenes.

Where Annabelle truly fails is by making the mistake that scuppers many a sequel, and it’s a mistake that you would have thought horror filmmakers would have realised by now.

The unknown is scary.
Humans are afraid of the dark, afraid of what may be lurking in the dark.
What is explained, illuminated for all to see, removes the unease, and dread of anticipation.
Annabelle, the doll was a conduit for a demon. A demonic doll! Shit, thats scary!

However, reveal how the doll became demonic, and whats worse ( and that opening is pretty bad), that the doll is being manipulated physically by an actual ‘man in blue tights’ demon, and you’ve lost me. Because it’s no longer the doll. It’s the idea of a pissed off demonic doll thats scary. Once its revealed that Annabelle is a bonafide puppet, she’s no longer scary. All of the work thats gone into creating a horror icon is frittered away, they may as well have had demonic toilet roll being waved around in front of the actors faces by a grinning blue demon.

I may copyright that idea…

Ultimately, the studio is at fault, but what do they care, annabelle was constructed at a budget level that meant even with the kind of drop off of cinema-goers ( presumably once the word got around), after the opening week, Annabelle is already printing money, and thats before dvd, VOD, tv, and other revenue streams kick in. So, what do they care? They will almost certainly greenlight Annabelle 2 with a lower tier director, with a lower tier cast, with an even lower budget. Id guess they’ll go for modern day too, after all its cheaper to shoot.

James Wan, hurry back for The Conjuring sequel, we’re missing you.



It takes a lot to impress me and I can count on one hand in the last few years the truly fantastic mainstream horrors that have hit our screens but up near the top would be THE CONJURING so imagine my excitement when I heard about the ANNABELLE spin off, surely it was just going to be perfect?

It seems it would take a lot to mess up what could and should have worked in this movie but between writer Gary Dauberman and director John R. Leonetti they seem to have done a good job. Frustratingly this movie should have worked as the ANNABELLE doll itself is a horror icon for me and you could have made ANNABELLE GOES TO THE BEACH or ANNABELLE GOES TO THE MALL and it would have been scary, primarily because of that doll.

This movie just didn’t get it right and it makes for a frustrating watch, it misses out the tension that I found was prevalent in THE CONJURING, there was very little in this movie that left me feeling frightened and that is the purpose of the ANNABELLE doll, it is supposed to do that. It isn’t even the doll itself as it doesn’t do anything apart from move locations but the real fear is found in what is the evil that is contained within it but that just doesn’t come through with this prequel.

So much of this film doesn’t work, I didn’t find myself caring about its two lead characters, and you want to scream at the screen to smash up the doll even when it keeps following you wherever you go, if something or someone was going to attack your pregnant wife, why would you leave her behind? And please don’t start me on the final sequence with Evelyn, the scary voodoo bookshop lady. Seriously you can’t make this up.

When I first saw this I felt like being a little more lenient but for me it has taken the momentum that was started by THE CONJURING and just made a complete mess of it. This movie just doesn’t work, a few scares do not make for a good movie and you totally missed out what makes that doll so scary to begin with, what really freaked me out n our first onscreen meeting this time feels like a parody of itself.

ANNABELLE is a frustrating watch that shows the limitations of its writer (check out his elusive history on such classics as SWAMP DEVIL and BLOOD MONKEY); perhaps this was one project too far for him. It really doesn’t work for me and it’s a movie that is better best forgotten.



Having been thoroughly entertained by The Conjuring and unnerved by the Annabelle doll I was hoping her own film would be just as creepy and maybe even scary as her fifteen minutes of fame in the Conjuring. Her decent turn was obviously enough for the studio to green light this spin off. While most saw it as a money making venture I do recall a large number of fans wishing for this movie as well; wise words should be heeded – “Be careful what you wish for”, while I wasn’t completely against the idea, I wasn’t really sold on it either. Hollywood’s track record for making mainstream horror films is hit and miss, most often than not missing by a very large margin.

Well guess what? They missed again! The whole story of Annabelle is rather dull, predictable and just not scary at all. In the end I was really quite disappointed with it. Opening with a cut down version of the Conjuring’s opening scene, which felt lazy and out of place, surely it would have worked better at the end of the film or not at all. There are enough references throughout the film to The Conjuring to tie them together without this one; but hey what do I know.

Aside the lazy opening I do have a number of other problems with the film. The main one for me was its momentum, every time it started to build, we hit a scare and it would drop again and start building to the next one. Which is fine if you going to bombard me with lots of scares but with only really a few major scares in the whole thing this became rather tedious and the film struggled to build any real tension. On top of that there was no warmth in the film, I didn’t feel attached to the main characters and ultimately I wasn’t really bothered about their plight, they were just so bland and generic. Though the baby seemed rather happy and into it, much more than her adult co-stars were; or maybe they were being stifled by the rather average dialogue and obvious screenplay. My final complaint is just how convenient everything was, Annabelle’s cursing and if you missed it, the news will fill in the blanks. The unexplained children spelling out the coming danger and of course the traumatized woman looking for redemption and on hand when required, when all hope is lost!

It was all very generic, very bland and as lifeless as the doll it portrayed, a real shame because I liked the idea of Annabelle, maybe it should have stayed an idea.



Considering the $320 million raked in from 2013 film The Conjuring’s modest $20 million budget, coupled with the abundance of possible spin-off story lines contained within the evidence room of Edward and Loraine Warren, sequels and spin offs aplenty were always going to happen. The first, Annabelle is a prequel showing the back story for the demon possessed doll featured heavily in the Conjuring.

The film is rather uninspiring, taking place a year prior to the Warrens obtaining the doll as depicted in The Conjuring. The plot follows a young, church going couple starting a new family with a ‘collectable’  and more pristine looking Annabelle doll being given as a present.  When, after a traumatic incident at the start of the film ‘things start to happen’, and the story from that point on becomes rather run of the mill. Things go bump in the night, electrics go weird and someone keeps whispering things at quiet points in the movie.  It is rather predictable and had me rolling my eyes at the repeated ignorance of the characters to the events happening around them. Like many studio made low(ish) budget horrors you will see the plot points coming 20 minutes or so before the characters on the screen do.

Made with a relatively unknown cast, the two main leads Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton play incredibly two dimensional characters very badly. This may be down to the source material they were given to work from, but neither appear that likeable or really connect with the audience at any point in the film. In contrast, the priest (Tony Amedola) and bookshop seller Evelyn (Alfre Woodard), have comparatively more rounded characters that both play very well. Both actors at points (most notably Alfre Woodard), have great scenes and short monologues.

Annabelle for its faults in script and cast does have some nice creepy moments and a number of nicely done scares that caused me to jump a few times. However, instead of helping create and escalate the tension as the film develops, the jumps and scares simply pepper the film at intervals of 5-10 minutes. This means it never really gains any traction or escalates the tension or tone until it suddenly enters the finale at the end of the third act, which arrives with the tactfulness of a baseball bat delivered to the back of the head.

Comparing the budget to the $37 million that Annabelle took stateside in the opening weekend alone, as a business model the film worked spectacularly. As a story it just fell a bit flat.
Maybe the (already in production) sequel will work better.

Annabelle is out in cinemas now.
No home media release date is available as yet.



74 thoughts on “Review: Annabelle

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