Review: Annabelle Creation

It’s another case of the sequel being a huge improvement on its predecessor as Annabelle Creation, against all odds, delivers the thrills it promises. All praise goes to director David F. Sandberg who deftly illicits genuine scares out of this would-be tired (but thankfully isn’t) haunted house.

There’s the really strange and promising phenomena happening in horror at the moment whereby these origin sequels are far surpassing their original films. That is most certainly the case for last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil which was miles more impressive in every way that’s its forgettable first entry, and Annabelle Creation lives firmly in this category as well.

Given 2014’s micro-budgeted Annabelle was already a spin off of The Conjuring (a world in Warner Bros have imaginatively now created a cinematic universe out of with The Nun from The Conjuring 2 getting her own film), having its own sequel might seem like flogging a dead horse, but when said dead horse went off and grossed $257m internationally off a $6.5m budget – it’s certainly not dead at all. In fact, Annabelle was one of, if not ‘the’, most profitable film for Warner Bros in years.

The sequel enlists 2016’s break out hit Lights Out director David F. Sandberg. Lights Out is another one of these micro-budgeted winners that earned $149m globally on a $4.9m budget. The appointment is the single biggest win for the film as the film maker brings with him a precision in framing and delivering in-camera scares using traditional cinema techniques. Squeaky doors, shadows on the prowl, movement in the darkness, ratcheting tension and a fantastic use of the full frame all add up to the finest horror release of the year thus far.

It’s the 1960s and in small town California, on a farmhouse property, acclaimed doll maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia), his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) and their 12 year old daughter Annabelle (Samara Lee) live the perfect idyll. That is, until Annabelle is tragically killed in a car accident. Years pass and the Mullins, a now bed ridden Esther and emotionally shut off Samuel, have converted their home into an orphanage for young girls much to the relief of a group of brand new tenants guided by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). Of particular note is two friends, Linda (Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Bateman), with the latter suffering from polio. It’s not too long before things start to go bump in the night and that room upstairs that should never be opened most certainly is…

Annabelle Creation hits all the right notes on what is a fairly familiar trajectory it travels. Sandberg expertly spends time establishing the characters, time and place before injecting the terror and the result is an effective thrill machine that delivers a final act that outclasses all of the predecessors.

There is a real pulsing visceral edge to the horror elements as they are mostly all practical effects. Simple tricks like a light flickering on and off, movement from nowhere, jump scares, that f*&king doll, and effective make up design all with in unison to give genuine thrills. For even the most seasoned horror fan, there’s so much to appreciate here.

Aided to no end by a cast of performers who deliver likeable characters (a huge flag for female empowerment), Annabelle Creation is out to terrorise these girls and has a ball doing it. There’s an easter egg in there for things to come that doesn’t feel as forced as it could’ve been and Sandberg really utilises the time and setting to full advantage. Best of all, he ties it up nicely to the rest of the series.

Way better and genuinely scarier than it had any right to be, Annabelle Creation is the sort of fright fest that you want to see in the cinema and ranks as the best horror release of 2017 thus far. Get on it!