|ANNABELLE: CREATION (director: David F. Sandberg; screenwriter: Gary Dauberman; cinematographer: Maxime Alexandre; editor: Michel Aller; music: Benjamin Wallfisch; cast: Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte), Talitha Bateman (Janice), Lulu Wilson (Linda), Philippa Coulthard (Nancy), Grace Fulton (Carol), Samara Lee (Bee Mullins), Tayler Buck (Kate), Anthony LaPaglia (Samuel Mullins), Miranda Otto.(Esther Mullins), Lou Lou Safran (Tierney), Mark Bramhall (Father Massey), Joseph Bishara (Annabelle Demon); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Peter Safran, James Wan.; New Line Cinema; 2017)|
|"Its scares didn't work for me."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg ("Lights Out") skillfully helms the fourth film in the money-making Conjuring franchise. If evaluating it on scare techniques alone and how well it's crafted, it would be a passable horror movie even if its scares didn't work for me. The prequel fills in the creepy backstory about the titled doll that's possessed with evil. But even if the slow moving scare film pulls off all the familiar horror tropes with ease, it only plunges onward by-the-numbers with its vacuous tale. Writer Gary Dauberman prepares the way for the next two installments by pleasing old-school horror fans with a gore-free film possessing an easy to like dilatory screenplay that unfortunately lacks originality, force or excitement.
It's set in the 1950s in a remote, cavernous, decaying but modest California farmhouse, with many dark rooms, one secret room that's locked, a stair-lift and a spooky barn. In the prologue, set in the mid-1940s, the loss of their seven-year-old daughter Bee (Samara Lee), who was hit by a car, leaves her mother Esther (Miranda Otto) and doll-maker father Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) grief-stricken. 12-years later they arrange with Father Massey (Mark Bramhall) to house the sweet Mexican caretaker nun Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and six orphaned girls, ranging in age I believe from 7 to 17, until they are adopted. But things get dicey when the polio crippled and leg-brace wearing curious Janice (Talitha Bateman) goes into the forbidden room and discovers on the loose the titled doll possessed by a demon. It results in an upsetting stay for all the visitors and the hosts. The scares include strange sounds, household objects tossed around for no reason, many bizarre paranormal events and an invisible force embedded in the doll on the attack.
The naive Christian believers use their religion to counter the forces of the Devil, but seem to be losing without help from the church. Tension never builds and the story never even seems remotely believable, and the only characters developed are Bateman's and Lulu Wilson's, playing the needy youngest orphan Linda who clings to the self-reliant Janice for support.
REVIEWED ON 8/11/2017 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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