A prequel to the prequel to The Conjuring films, the story here is that of how the evil doll Annabelle came to be. Years following a tragic accident, a doll maker and his wife take in a group of orphans needing a new place to live with the nun who watches over them. As they are forbidden to go in a specific room, the young girls get curious and something is awakened.
The story is a fairly straight forward origin story about the source of an evil item. Here writer Gary Dauberman and director David F. Sandberg create this story in a way that builds the mystery of the doll who every one already knows through what is now the sequel to this, but a prequel to another film, something that is not all that easy to do. Here they tell the story with some decent tension in spots and a few truly scary moments. However, some of the scares are wasted with music that tells the audience something is coming and then stops. The music as is, by Benajmin Wallfisch, is not bad or out of place, it’s how it’s used and stopped in a way that becomes predictable and repetitive. This cuts the tension created by the story and how the scenes are built, something that is unfortunate as many of those scenes could have been heaps more effective if they have not had musical cues and the stop of these always right as something is about to happen. The fear does mount towards the end of the film and the viewer is served up some decent mayhem and evil attacks left and right to give goose bumps to just about anyone.
The cast of this prequel-prequel is composed of mostly girls due to the orphanage being moved to the house being a girls’ one. These young ladies are led by Talitha Bateman as Janice and Lulu Wilson as Linda. Both of them give good performances, with Lulu Wilson giving a captivating turn as the young girl with a good heart, trying to help while making a few dumb mistakes which are par for the course with most horror films. She plays the young orphan with a truth and earnestness that brings all the attention to her. Playing Samuel Mullins, the doll maker and father in the film, is Anthony LaPaglia, an actor who is pretty much always good to great in his parts, here being no exceptions. Playing his wife, the mother, Ester Mullins is Mirando Otto who is given not that many scenes where we can see her, but she has quite the impact.
Also working out well are the effects which are fairly few considering the type of film. This does not mean that they do not work well. On the contrary, The special effects and visual effects by Shade VFX and other crews look good and are mostly kept to darker scenes, giving them the cover of darkness to work their magic on the mind and imagination of the viewer. Quick shots here and there with a few longer sequences show just enough to give proper heebee jeebees.
Annabelle Creation is not a high body count type of film, but a slow buildup of characters and situations that lead to eventual scares. It takes a premise most are familiar with and plays with it to create some fear that it does sustain for more of the runtime. It has a fairly long runtime for this type of scary film at 1 hour and 49 minutes. It has a few good scares, some decent tension and suspense, especially considering it’s a prequel and the audience knows where it’s going, and some good performances and effects. It’s an effective horror film, but forgettable as it does not stick with the viewer once the lights come back on. Having not seen the first one, comparisons cannot be drawn at this point, but it’s a fun, scary watch as a standalone film.