I don’t think we really needed to know the story of “Annabelle” nor did we need a movie about her. And if we had to have one, wouldn’t it have been better to expand on the events from the prologue of “The Conjuring”? What’s sad is that the first five minutes of “The Conjuring” involving Annabelle is more terrifying than the ninety minute bore that is “Annabelle.” It seems like often times the movie can reach the heights of pure terror if it wants to, but pulls back for some odd reason. Either director John R. Leonetti doesn’t know how to hit those highs that “The Conjuring” did, or just didn’t want to, for the sake of a sequel. “Annabelle” sets up the prologue by staging the first five minutes from “The Conjuring” to let audiences know this is a direct sequel, and spin off, and prequel. It’s all three.
After we’re done visiting the nurses, sans the Warrens, we go back to the origin of Annabelle. Unfortunately, the film has to explain the origin of Annabelle and why the doll is so bloody evil. That destroys any and all mystique she once held. Her enigmatic evil is deflated even further when we learn the doll is not really the villain, but is merely just an instrument of pure evil. So oddly enough, Annabelle is a second banana in her own horror movie. We go visit with utterly boring couple Mia and John, two Caucasian God fearing newlyweds that are about to welcome their first child. John gives wife Mia a new doll for her collection in the form of the rare Annabelle, but circumstances involving a brutal murder, and the couple becoming an inadvertent target triggers pure evil within the doll. Soon Mia finds herself being tormented by Annabelle, or—not really Annabelle.
It’s never really indicated. There’s an unusual attempt to make popping popcorn a terrifying moment; instead it’s bereft of frights. Especially when you consider Annabelle isn’t doing anything at all. There are some interesting elements thrown out in to the narrative that are never explored and completely thrown away for no reason, leaving the whole of the film feeling rushed and half assed. We meet an unusual pair of children coloring on the steps of Mia and John’s apartment building, and they’re never seen again. There are upstairs neighbors prone to making loud noises, and there’s a ton of focus on Satanic cults, and demonic possession for no particular reason. You begin to wonder if the children Mia meets ever really existed when she discovers crayon drawing depicting her daughter being hit by a truck, but the writers never dig deep enough to keep us in suspense.
When the shit finally does hit the fan by the finale, much of it is so monotonous as there’s no sense of urgency or potential loss presented. We never care enough about Mia or John to care for their personal welfare, Annabelle doesn’t do much except act as a glorified prop, and much of what occurred is brushed when Annabelle disappears in the end, setting the stage for the nurses terrifying journey in to “The Conjuring.” The only African American character sacrifices herself, but at least the beautiful young Caucasian couple gets to see another day. “Annabelle” is a huge missed opportunity with potential to really raise hairs as its predecessor did. In the end it’s only half baked, dull, and lacking the heart and soul of “The Conjuring.”