Annabelle (2014) – Review

Directed by John R Leonetti
Written by Gary Dauberman
Starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton
A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.

For those that know me. DOLLS! For those that don’t, please see this for an explanation. I really should be paying more attention, as I have been wandering around my normal haunts of the interweb net planet thing for the past couple of weeks, calling this ‘Annabel’. Well, now don’t I look like a huge arse?
So, previously, on The Conjuring…
James Wan has alot to answer for. Whilst he has done some great things, he’s also made other people stupidly optimistic about the chances of doing the same. Case in point, one John Leonetti, DoP for Wan on the aforementioned project starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Here Leonetti takes up the directorial reins for a stab at putting the willies up you a second time in as many years, using ostensibly the same props. Essentially, a doll and some barely witnessed demon, spray painted black, borrowed most likely from Insidious, which also starred Patrick Wilson. It’s just one big cheap-thrill budget-driven, profit-lusting, imagination-free horror club, isn’t it. Briefly, there was light with The Conjuring, but now we’re back in the mire, grubbing about for inspiration, hoping for a quick death and a quicker running time.
Chucky. No reason. Well, one reason, but I don’t feel the need to go there. You’re smart, you’ll work it out.
Brought into existence by the surprising success and even critical acclaim (yes, I liked it too) of the movie that spawned this prequel, Annabelle is an eager, if altogether hastily conceived, project that tells us the story of how that bloody creepy doll got to be so damned dangerous in the first place. 
Bought as a present by doting husband and father-to-be (Horton) for his wife (Wallis), the alarm bells should have been ringing already. This woman really likes and collects dolls. At her age? Really? What’s more, if the impending bundle of joy had ended up being a boy, would that have put paid to the room full of potential nightmares that this child was seemingly born to be subjected to? Frankly, I wouldn’t have got much sleep in that room, so what a small child with an imagination able to conjure up just about anything would have made of it seems like short-sighted parenting at the very least, if not actually bordering on an emergency call to Esther Ranzten’s Childline.
Still, he’s just a man. As a rule, we don’t score too highly in these affairs and Ward Horton does a great job reflecting the idiot, clueless husband (who still somehow seems qualified enough to be an actual Doctor). Wallis comes off little better, no more than a crazy pregnant woman or for that matter, a recently pregnant, possibly delusional post-natal woman, in any case. Gross stupidity seems to be the order of the day here and given this new mothers’ determination to give up her soul to protect her baby, you do have to wonder why she does some of the things she does, like leaving a child, often, alone in a room when she knows it is a potentially very dangerous thing to do. Or maybe wandering out of the apartment to go to the basement, leaving her sleeping baby unattended in her cot several floors away, already aware that something very peculiar has been happening for quite some time.
So, displays of stupendously ill-conceived child-rearing notwithstanding, what to make of this second of at least three Conjuring inspired outings (yes, the ‘proper’ sequel comes next year, folks). Well, this is basically horror-by-numbers and has had the kitchen sink thrown at it along with everything else in a movie that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. At times, Leonetti hints at Rosemary’s Baby (that pram), Chucky (Annabelle) with even a touch of Amityville thrown in for good measure. The horror sequences are most laughable and the jump scares very few and far between. I only got the one jump out of my one hundred minutes and it wasn’t even at a particularly horrible moment. 
If anything, Leonetti’s effort here goes to prove that horror, like most things, is in the eye of the beholder and whilst mood and tension may be alien concepts to him, he doesn’t mind liberally dabbing his cinematic palette with crazy-haired women that really need a wash, apparently wandering about his lead’s home, mostly unnoticed. If his definition of ‘scary’ is having this same woman hurtle though the apartment, screaming and waving her arms about, then I’d like to invite him to visit Chorlton on any Saturday evening, possibly sporting a sandwich board emblazoned with something along the lines of ‘Follow me ladies, I’ve got a free bottle of Asti for anyone that can keep up with me’. Then he will see not only this same version of the woman featured, but also the real meaning of fear.

Not scary enough, not gruesome enough, not tense enough. Enough of this nonsense. Now just bloody well stop it.

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