Starring Stephanie Sigman, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson, Anthony LaPaglia, Talitha Bateman, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Kerry O’Malley, Phillippa Coulthard, Joseph Bishara
3 STARS (out of 5)
Long story short – do you like the idea of creepy dolls? No matter how you answered that, this one could well surprise you.
To avoid any confusion, both the Annabelle movie series and The Conjuring movie series are part of the same universe – perhaps in an attempt to create some form of ‘creepy doll universe’, who knows – but these movies, so far, have subverted much of what is expected of them. Cinematic horror has taken a real beating in the past few years thanks to the likes of movies such as The Forest and Lights Out (which Sandberg also helmed, though isn’t anywhere near as bad as the aforementioned Forest) – and while the themes and plots for the likes of Conjuring and Annabelle may well get a few genre savvy eyes rolling, there really is no denying that the creep factor is alive and well here. While nothing particularly ground-breaking may be coming our way from these movies, they do at least scare well when they want to – and that, in a sea of movies dependent on poorly-executed jumpscares, is more than enough for a money-paying audience.
Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to – well – Annabelle – which aims to fill in a few of the gaps in the saga surrounding the titular possessed doll. Following a group of orphans and their caretaking nun into the home of a couple whose lives are twinged with tragedy, young Lulu finds herself drawn to one particular doll in the toymaker’s house that will have a long history ahead of her – leading to a series of events and dozens of creeps and frights across the film’s runtime. It really is as simple as that – it’s an origin story for a creepy, possessed doll – and, generally, it does what it sets out to do with little in the way of complaint – even if it isn’t the most original movie on the block.
While Creation is helmed by a different director to The Conjuring series, the movie still builds up most of its tension and its creepiness from sheer surroundings – a creepy old house, strange décor, pasts twinged with tragedy – the whole smorgasbord. The movie already has tons going for it in that it centres around a creepy doll – a trope or stereotype which, while having been done to death across the decades, still holds considerable weight with mainstream horror crowds.
I use the term ‘mainstream horror’ here as Creation is unlikely to unseat or stir aficionados of classic or even more finely-crafted horror. This is a movie which loves to creep you out, and it does so with slow, punitive glee – before becoming somewhat crazy in the latter throes of the runtime. It borrows much from Conjuring 2 in that the surroundings and character histories add as much creep to the whole factor as much as the central doll does – there’s a very thick, creepy atmosphere that pervades the screen which works marvellously well.
However, it is still jumpscare city. They’re not all daft – see The Forest for examples of this – meaning that you do feel at least some enjoyment from being spooked unawares. The main issues facing Creation do lie in the fact that it is unashamedly derivative – major kudos is due thanks to the sheer work that has gone into the look of the movie and the fact that so much is being added in terms of lore and backstory to such a relatively thin premise – but, ultimately, it’s not going to be changing any games any time soon. Horror movie fans will no doubt enjoy it, but perhaps not for the reasons that the moviemakers had originally intended.
Annabelle: Creation - Official Trailer 2 (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Creation is a nicely menacing movie that launches jumpscares on you when you absolutely deserve it – and the tension and fear that is palpable throughout is bolstered by a good cast who are, admittedly, generally playing very stupid characters. Horror movies with smart characters would only be a fraction as long, however – and you are generally handsomely rewarded for sticking out even the goofier moments that this one has to offer.
On the whole, I would generally recommend this one to anyone willing to sit through it. Anyone quivering at the thought of a creepy, demonic doll in an old, dusty house will likely get scared absolutely witless. Anyone more than a little sceptical will roll their eyes in places but will still find themselves jumping, even a little. Horror fans will breeze through it – but for them, at least, there is a lot to marvel at in terms of film-making, and it is therefore a worthwhile trip to the cinema for anyone who feels they can just about stomach the premise.