A grief-stricken couple, Samuel and Esther Mullins, sequester themselves in their remote country home after the tragic loss of their daughter, Annabelle “Bee.” Twelve years into their self-imposed exile, they decide to open their house to a group of orphans. Supernatural occurrences escalate when one of their new charges discovers a doll that has been long locked away and evil soon permeates their lives.
[Review contains spoilers.]
Annabelle: Creation rolls it back to the very beginning of this creepy doll’s inception, made by famed toymaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) who lovingly handcrafted the piece as an homage to his young daughter, Annabelle “Bee” (Samara Lee). (They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder – I’m guessing the butt ugly doll was meant as a compliment?)
If my dad was like, “I made this for you!” I would cry. [Photo Credit]
Bee is the apple of Samuel and Esther’s (Miranda Otto) eyes – the wealthy couple dotes on her obsessively. (Doll-making must’ve been pretty lucrative during the Dust Bowl depression era?) All is rosy in their privileged world until a horrible accident ruins their lives when Bee is hit by a car. The couple holes up in their mansion and their world basically stops. For some reason, after 12 years of silence, they decide to open up their home to a group of six orphans and one seriously hot nun (Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte).
The girls are thrilled with their new digs – especially polio-stricken Janice (Talitha Bateman) and her best friend, Linda (Lulu Wilson). Of course they’re dying to explore the house and its surroundings – and, naturally, the best time to do that is in the dead of night. Janice soon takes to roaming the second floor while everyone is asleep, but the real trouble begins when a locked room (Bee’s bedroom, that has remained untouched since her passing) magically opens for her. She’s drawn to the locked closet – because I guess gaining access to the locked bedroom wasn’t enough – and, lo and behold, she finds a doll perched on a rocking chair, surrounded by decoupaged walls of pages ripped out of the Bible. You know, the usual.
As you may have guessed, the doll chilling in the rocking chair is none other than Annabelle, who is not amused by her timeout in the closet. You would think things would get rolling at this point, but friends they do not! The dry countryside and large property are meant to create a gothic setting, but it’s really an excuse to draw out the few and far between scares. This film moves slower than Janice’s polio gate. Shadow play and cheap, obvious shots are the name of the game for the bulk of the under 2-hour runtime. (Annabelle is like Jaws – you think you’re going to see a lot of the thing that’s supposed to scare you, but you’re fooled by the mere suggestion of its presence. There are some gorier, creepier things later in the flick – effects saved mainly for the finale.)
So much time is spent on Janice and Linda’s friendship, along with the struggles of Janice’s illness and subsequent disability, that it might as well have been renamed The Polio Diaries: A Cautionary Tale as to Why Children Should Be Vaccinated. By the time Janice and Linda are recounting a “hilarious” story about when they used to steal chocolate chips from the kitchen of their former orphanage, laughing like two old biddies at a coffee klatch, I was ready to stab myself in the thigh. The mere thought of puncturing my skin with my fancy new pilot’s pen (it has a light at the tip, so I can take notes in a dark theater like a god damn professional!) was way scarier than anything I saw on the screen.
Unlucky ladies. [Photo Credit]
I spent a lot of the time in my seat wishing:
- That I could eat popcorn. The film was so quiet that any munching would’ve rang throughout the theater. Am I codependent, worrying about everyone’s aural comfort over my snack desires? Let’s save the answer for another day!
- That I could leave. My god, this movie is boring.
- That the director could’ve at least had the decency to include a hot hookup between Sister Charlotte and Samuel. A titillating romp in the doll-maker’s toolshed would’ve gone a long way to increase my goodwill towards this dud. Instead, the only wood Samuel carved was a shoddily made cross.
The only sin here is omission. [Photo Credit]
The plot begins to thicken when Sister Charlotte finally begs for answers from bedridden Esther. The two have a polite and informative chat because, as noted, the nun has not banged her husband. I guess narrative exposition was more important than horror flick sex to the director, and to that I say, “Whatever, David F. Sandberg. Annabelle is not the monster here; you are!”
Esther reveals to the distraught Charlotte that Bee was taken from them suddenly and, while consumed by extreme grief, they prayed to any deity that would listen for another chance with their daughter. I guess God was busy that day because it was the Devil himself that answered the Mullins’ plea. Bee’s spirit soon began to appear in the house, which momentarily brought peace to her parents. But Bee quickly tired of not having a physical form and asked for permission to move into the doll her father crafted for her. They said “yes,” and Annabelle as we know her was created. (The title makes so much sense!) It didn’t take long for Esther and Samuel to figure out that – surprise! – the entity now inhabiting the toy was decidedly not their beloved Bee. It’s too bad, because when has giving your dead daughter permission to move into a horrifically homely doll not worked out? Weird. (I guess someone didn’t have access to Netflix. Chucky, streaming now!)
They would make a cute couple. [Photo Credit]
It should be noted that Esther lounges in bed wearing half of a porcelain doll face over a wound that, despite being a decade old, looks as fresh as the day the devil tried to rip her head open in order to claim her soul. Here’s the moment where I simply must complain about the fuzzy timeline. They have seatbelts in this movie, but apparently not antibiotics or hydrogen peroxide? Or was Samuel just too lazy to hit up the drug store for his wife, instead opting to create a poor – or, in this case, rich – man’s Phantom of the Opera? What year is the film set in? If I’d been allowed my brain food – aka buttered movie popcorn – maybe I could’ve figured it out, but I was cruelly denied by the hand of my own politeness. Sigh. On the upswing, the sound, or lack thereof, is well-done. The editor created an ambiance that worked effectively, especially in Dolby Surround. I spent half my time looking over my shoulder, hearing creaks and thinking someone was behind me.
I got the hottest bitch in the game wearing my chain. [Photo Credit]
However, this effect is not enough to make up for an overarchingly boring experience. As mentioned, it does ramp up at the end, with the entity in Annabelle successfully taking over Janice’s soul. (Bonus: The devil has no time for polio, so an evil Janice can walk!) A lot of crazy shit goes down before Janice disappears and Annabelle is shoved back in the closet. Did I mention this band of girls (and one hot nun) are literally rescued by men? I was already wildly offended by the slow-moving molasses subbing for a plot, but this just about put me over the edge.
Oh, Annabelle – I want to think you’re scary. I really do. The Conjuring was a legitimate fright – but, two sequels in, there’s no denying this doll would’ve been better off left to rot in the attic.
Annabelle: Creation (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a moving shadow is supposed to scare you.
Take a Drink: every time the mean girl posse excludes Janice and Linda.
Take a Drink: every time the gals use the creaky dumbwaiter.
Take a Drink: every time you wonder why in the hell Janice would go into Bee’s room in the first place.
Do a Shot: if you find Linda wildly annoying.
Do a Shot: for Anthony LaPaglia! So I Married an Axe Murderer is still one of the best movies of all time.
If you want a to stare at Annabelle for a full minute before seeing her eyes move, by all means stay while the credits roll.