Directed by: Gary Dauberman – Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
I’m going to assume that anyone reading this is somewhat familiar with the creepy-looking doll that is Annabelle, and also with the Conjuring universe, of which she is a part. This is directed by first-timer, Dauberman, although he has a strong pedigree with these movies, having written the earlier two films in the series, Annabelle and Annabelle Creation, as well as penning another Conjuring-verse movie, The Nun.
Set in 1968, this takes place after the demon doll has been procured by Conjuring staples, demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren (with Wilson and Farmiga reprising their roles) and suitably stored in their artefacts room, so that the evil cannot escape.
However, as all fans of horror movies know, when you add teenagers to the equation, all the health and safety precautions in the world are useless, and when the Warrens leave to investigate another case, they entrust the care of their young daughter, Judy (Grace) to teen babysitter, Mary Ellen (Iseman).
As is standard horror fare, her friend Daniela (Sarife) invites herself over. But her intention isn’t to raid the Warren’s booze cabinet. Rather she is hoping to find something in the house that will help her communicate with her dead father.
You can see where this is going. She manages to get into the artefacts room, accidentally leaves Annabelle’s glass case unlocked, and (literally) all hell breaks loose. The trapped spirits and entities captured by Ed and Lorraine overrun the house, tormenting the teens and Judy, and threatening their lives.
This is a fairly rote tale, and your enjoyment of it hinges on how you feel about Annabelle, and the Conjuring Universe in general. It definitely doesn’t have as much ‘frights’ as its predecessors, and there are many missed ‘jump out of your seat’ moments – perhaps a reflection of Dauberman’s rookie-director status. He definitely plays it very safe, and could have incorporated far more horror. While Farmiga and Wilson are great as Ed and Lorraine, the younger cast aren’t given anything too taxing to do, although they do approach their roles with gusto.
This is quite dark – as in the cinematography style as well as the subject matter – and suffers somewhat from this, as even on the big screen it is sometimes difficult to see what’s going on. This is a common problem in horror flicks, and directors really need to find another way to create atmosphere.
Aside from the technicalities though, it is relatively good fun for fans. Annabelle is a creepy as ever, and it is entertaining enough to keep most viewers engaged, if not quite creeping them out to the extent the producers would like.
Somewhat more formulaic than many of the Conjuring movies, I’m sure there will be several more sequels to this, as there appears to be life in the old doll yet.
In Cinemas July 10th!