IHeardThatMovie’s review published on Letterboxd:
In 2013, director James Wan released one the best horror movies of the decade, The Conjuring. The film went on to set a record for the largest opening for an original horror film, making $41.9 million opening weekend at the domestic box office. So it's no surprise that a year later a spin-off is hitting theaters just in time for the Halloween season. Unfortunately for us, James Wan is not back to direct the film. Instead, his preferred cinematographer of choice since his 2007 film Dead Silence, John R. Leonetti, has taken on the challenge. Leonetti is no stranger in directing the next film in a franchise as he directed both Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2. Just like the aforementioned films, Annabelle does not live up to the first film but is Leonetti's best piece of work while sitting in the director's chair.
She terrified you in The Conjuring, but this is where it all began for Annabelle. Capable of unspeakable evil, the actual doll exists locked up in an occult museum in Connecticut—visited only by a priest who blesses her twice a month. New Line Cinema’s supernatural thriller Annabelle begins before the evil was unleashed. John Form (Ward Horton) has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia (Annabelle Wallis)—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.
I am a huge fan of James Wan's work, especially The Conjuring. So when word got out that a spin off was in the works I was immediately intrigued even though James Wan was not going to be directing it. But where The Conjuring shines, Annabelle fails. You know a film is facing an uphill battle when it is already being compared to another.
The Conjuring was not like most horror films. Wan did not attempt to scare you with explicitness or gore but with more of how the viewer feels personally. The horror scenes do not rely on shock value and cheesy gimmicks but they make the hairs on your arms stand up. You grow to care for the characters which causes their fears to become yours as well.
Annabelle on the other hand, you don't care for the characters at all and the scares are not only obvious for the most part but they all utilize the jump scare method a little too much. Let's focus more on the thoughtless decisions our characters make. When we first see the doll in The Conjuring it looks creepy as hell. It was safe to assume the doll looked the way it did due to it being possessed. WRONG! John Form decided to buy this doll as a gift for his wife. Would you buy a doll that looks creepy naturally? No. Then would you put said doll right above the carriage that belongs to the baby that you are expecting? Once again, nope! Then the night in which they were attacked by the two cultist, John and Mia had a chance to call the cops while the cultist were still in their neighbors house but decided not to. Why? They believed if their neighbors heard screams coming from their house in the middle of the night and all the lights were off, they would just come over and check it out first as well. Maybe that's how people did it back in the 60's but in 2014 you never go into a house in the middle of night in which you just heard screams coming from. This is all within the first twenty minutes of the film.
As for the scares, every time the film used a wide shot, you just knew something was about to come. A character would be on one side of the shot and the on the opposite there would be an open door leading to a dark hallway. The main problem with the scary scenes is that there was simply no suspense building in the construction of them. The score of the film attempts a build up but fails due to how obvious they were. Don't get me wrong, if you are an individual who gets scared easily, you are most likely going to be scared half to death because the film is filled with jump scare after jump scare. There is one scene in particular which starts off in the basement of the Form's apartment which was done perfectly and even I was trying my best not to close my eyes.
If you were hoping that this film lived up to The Conjuring than you will be disappointed as it becomes clear that what is ultimately missing from this film is James Wan himself. Depending on your tolerance of horror films than Annabelle will either be a complete bore or a film that scares you ultimately just one time due to its jump scare tactics.
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