Annabelle haunts with atmospheric scares and conjures up demonic violence.
Annabelle is a supernatural occult horror film and both the prequel and a spin-off of The Conjuring (2013). The Conjuring starts with a scene where Ed and Lorraine Warren visit two young nurses who are haunted by a doll called Annabelle. They take the doll home with them to her lock up in their basement/museum. Annabelle isn’t haunted but a demonic entity has attached itself to it. Now we get to see what happened with the doll before she came to live with the two nurses in a very creepy story that takes place in the age of satanic fright. With a great atmosphere, some originally shot but brutal horror scenes, creepy vibes and excellent jump scares, and amazing terrifying music, this makes sure you definitely don’t like dolls.
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It’s 1969 and John and Mia Form live in Santa Monica and are expecting their first baby. As a gift John buys Mia a special antique doll Annabelle for her doll collection. Everything changes when their neighbors Pete and Sharon Higgins are brutally murdered in their own home by two satanic cult members and these two are forcing their way into John and Mia’s home to kill them too. When the female cult member is distracted by the Annabelle doll, John and Mia are able to overpower and kill them. The female cult member turned out to be the run-away daughter of the Higgins’, Annabelle.
But after this terrible ordeal their problems are far from over and they are haunted by a demonic entity. They can’t even shake it when they move to an apartment building. They ask for the help of a priest Father Perez to protect them and their new born baby Leah.
Why you should watch it
Annabelle is a big nod to the satanic fright in the sixties, when the cult of Charles Manson caused a lot of harm and death. This terror is mixed with the occult horror, to create a creepy and foreboding atmosphere. The story is simple and kept small, with the focus on Mia and mostly told from her perspective as a young woman and a new mother. This results in some surreal scenes, some unexpected horror and sets the tone with fear and tension instead on gore. Only the first brutal violent scenes are drenched in gory fright which is filmed in a great way, that takes you along with the experience of Mia which makes it all the more unsettling and close to home. It’s a very intimate and private sequence of violence, and sticks out from the rest of the film.
The jump scares are greatly timed and some are very original. Slow paced scenes, silence and a quiet style reflect a feeling of holding your breath. Shots of hallways where nothing really happens, but could be, and of course of the doll Annabelle, who doesn’t even move, create a scary feeling that creeps under your skin. Annabelle is a great character who only sits and waits to be held either by Mia or the demonic entity. Her looks are fading and get more sinister and evil as the film progresses, and she gets creepier by the minute.
The demon however is shown in full and his beastly shape is craftily created. He looks terrifying and his presence is always felt, before he is even seen. The reveal of the demon can take away the scary illusion, but he’s still scary nonetheless.
The tone and vibe of the sixties, the set design and nostalgic feel is very well done and it reminds of the sixties horror films, and gives a huge nod to Rosemary’s Baby (1968), although less brilliant, but in some scenes you’ll find some similarities. This sixties vibe is mixed with a modern touch of camera angles and use of scares, and doesn’t copy the old style.
With suggestion, creating a creepy atmosphere and fantastic music by Joseph Bishara, it knows how to create an unnerving vibe. Like in The Conjuring, the focus is on family and sacrifice, to withstand the lure or terror of a demonic entity. It’s focused on the people who have to deal with a supernatural threat while this threat keeps on terrorizing them. And just like The Conjuring it’s about a mother and her child. It’s a theme that keeps recurring throughout the franchise. Carolyn Perron and her children, Lorraine Warren and her daughter Judy, Sharon Higgins and her daughter Annabelle and Mia and baby Leah. Women are the ones being terrorized or attacked, but they are also the ones with a supernatural sense to protect their children and are willing to sacrifice themselves to save their child, or to help other women.
My favorite part
There’s a scene where they constantly hear their neighbor on the floor above them walking, but that has a great twist. Also when the demon picks up Annabelle, is a great scary shot. But the beginning when they are attacked is a very surprising scene that first feels out of touch with the franchise, but fits in wonderfully eventually. Especially when you watch this scene in Annabelle Creation, the sequel, from another point of view.
Scare factor: ★★★★☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆
Read more about The Conjuring franchise:
Cast and crew
Annabelle is directed by John R. Leonetti and written by Gary Dauberman. It stars Annabelle Wallis (Mia Form), Ward Horton (John Form), Alfre Woodard (Evelyn), Tony Amendola (Father Perez), Kerry O’Malley (Sharon Higgins) and Brian Howe (Pete Higgins).
Duration: 100 minutes. Music: Joseph Bishara. Cinematography: James Kniest. Edited by: Tom Elkins. Produced by: Peter Safran, James Wan. Production company: New Line Cinema, RatPac Entertainment, Atomic Monster, The Safran Company. Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures.