FILM REVIEW – ANNABELLE: CREATION. With Stephanie Sigman, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson, Anthony LaPaglia, Talitha Bateman. Written by Gary Dauberman. Directed by David F. Sandberg. Rated R for horror violence and terror. 109 minutes.
Although the snippet after the closing credits of ANNABELLE: CREATION suggests yet another film in the series, it’s time to pull the plug. It’s a movie that could only be saved by the services of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” sitting in the corner of the TV screen and make snarky remarks about the terrible cheesy movies they’re forced to watch.
“Annabelle” was originally a spin-off of “The Conjuring” (2013), one of the best horror movies of recent years. In that film, a couple who either debunk or fight supernatural infestations are shown to have a sinister looking doll from another case. This led to the prequel “Annabelle” (2014), where we got the story of this accursed devil doll. It wasn’t as good, but it was a serviceable horror movie.
The setup here is that now we’re going to learn the origin of the doll (the details won’t be given away here). Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) arrives at the rural home of Sam Mullins (a surprisingly inert Anthony LaPaglia) with six girls from a shuttered orphanage. He and his bedridden wife (Miranda Otto) have agreed to take them in and give them the run of the house––except for one bedroom that’s off limits.
Before you can shout, “Little girl with the leg brace (Talitha Bateman), don’t go in there!”, she’s gone in, found a key for a locked closet, and discovered Annabelle. Now actually that’s not quite right. You have plenty of time to shout. You even have time to run to the concession stand, because this movie is so slow that it telegraphs every scare. When the dramatic music plays itself out to silence and we get a closeup of one or the other of the girls, we know something is about to jump up or pop out or otherwise go, “Boo!”
The attacks are mostly––but not entirely––directed at the two youngest orphans, Janice (Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson), who are unrelated but hope to be adopted as sisters. The presence of four older girls, who giggle about boys when they’re not busy trying to frighten themselves, is another narrative dead end. This is not a variation of “The Beguiled.” The closest we get to the acknowledgement of adolescent hormones is when one of the girls pretends to be insulted by a scarecrow, a scene you just know will have repercussions later on.
And that’s the problem with “Annabelle: Creation.” It’s so slow and so predictable that people may start shouting out wisecracks to keep it moving along. We learn where the doll came from and why it’s possessed, and neither turns out to be terribly interesting. Worse, we see a picture of Sister Charlotte at a convent in Rumania where a mysterious figure joins her and three other nuns when the picture is held just so. Instead of trying to milk this series with increasingly diminishing returns, the people involved should take another look at “The Conjuring” or, for that matter this year’s “Get Out,” for an example of horror movies that work. And then they should try to come up with something original.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.