REVIEW Annabelle: Creation
Directed by David F. Sandberg
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by David F. Sandberg, Annabelle: Creation is the prequel to 2014’s Annabelle and tells the story behind the possessed doll that has haunted so many people.
I have not seen Annabelle, but I am a big fan of The Conjuring series because of their excellent craft behind the typical scares. Annabelle: Creation thankfully displays that same level of care and effort into not only making you terrified throughout, but delivering a worthwhile experience in real horror.
David F. Sandberg delivered effective scares with his debut film Lights Out, but it lacked a competent narrative to fill the excellent premise. Annabelle: Creation has that kind of narrative that makes us actually care about the characters who are being haunted in this house. Sandberg makes two young actresses the leads of the movie, and places the weight of this movie on their shoulders with the confidence of Spielberg. We care about these girls and where they go because they are performed so well by Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson, and because the story constantly gives them new and terrifying challenges to face in every scene.
The way that Sandberg directs this story and his camera around the movie is almost masterful, with everything that is set-up in the first half being deconstructed and destroyed in the second half. The character relationships, the audience expectations, and almost every element of production is called back, picked apart, torn away, and sent crawling back, twisted and deformed. This is true horror.
That aforementioned camerawork from cinematographer Maxime Alexandre is the twisting, flowing brilliance that made me so alert to how great the two Conjuring movies are. The perfect long-takes, mastery of the foreground, and deliberate framing and zooms is the unnerving effect that I crave, but am still shocked by nonetheless.
Annabelle: Creation is well-performed by the two lead actresses, and the rest of the cast are solid performers, but the writing is not perfect. Some characters don’t seem particularly important to the story or make choices that seem misguided. And as effective as the horror of the movie is, it has those moments of nonsense. The more the demons of Annabelle: Creation show their face, the worse the makeup and CGI is and the lesser the movie becomes. It’s the Jaws effect: the more you see the shark, the faker it looks.
Annabelle: Creation is a solid horror movie that delivers bone-chilling scares, leaves in some decent character work for the leads, and results in a well-made movie in general. Sandberg is an incredibly promising director who gets better with each project he makes, and Annabelle: Creation is the rare horror spin-off/prequel that actually works.