Very few horror series have enjoyed the critical success of “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle.”The genre doesn’t typically fair well with critics. With the release of “Annabelle: Creation,” the series finds itself with an intriguing fourth installment.
Now at the reins is David F. Sandberg, who is no stranger to the genre with his 2016 feature debut, “Lights Out.” Sandberg takes a successful recipe established by its predecessors, and allows for“Annabelle: Creation” to be every bit as interesting.
“Annabelle: Creation” is the story of a dollmaker, Sam Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife,Esther (Miranda Otto). Years after their daughter’s death, they welcome Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), and a group of estranged orphans to come live in their home.
Janice (Talitha Bateman), who is suffering from Small Pox and unable to move like the other girls, becomes particularly interested in what is happening in the locked room formerly occupied by the Mullins’ late daughter. Soon after their arrival, something within the house begins to haunt the girls.Janice and her best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson) appear to be the main target of whatever is lurking in the home.
What “Annabelle: Creation” does best is construct a backstory. While the film could be successful as a standalone, its ability to build on the world already in place with the original “Annabelle” film is impressive. Being an origin story, the film doesn’t have to rely on as many early scares because the audience already has an understanding on what is about to happen.When the goosebump-inducing scenes begin, prior knowledge of the Annabelle doll’s antics takes hold of the viewer and slowly breaks their nerves before terrifying with a “boo” moment. “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle” series knows what it does well, and sticks with it, rewarding its audiences for going along on the journey.
The use of children and dolls in horror films has become a successful formula over the years.“Annabelle: Creation” uses both to perfection. The juxtaposition of what is deemed to be innocent to what is horrific just seems to work. The film uses innocence to lure characters, only to turn around and terrorize them, creating an unsettling cinema experience. No character wants to be untrusting of a child,but over and over again the horror genre dupes these people, and “Annabelle: Creation” is no exception.
Maybe more than its predecessor, “Annabelle: Creation” uses mood to scare its audience. There are some truly terrifying images displayed throughout the film, but what isn’t happening is far more unsettling. Taking little more than an ominous doll in slightly different positions, cinema goers are left teetering on the edge of their seats.
Matched with a score by Benjamin Wallfisch, Sandberg lets the expectations of what is about to happen do the scaring. Sandberg has clearly mastered baiting audiences into predicting what is to come next and then letting them spook themselves. There are few series that continue to produce high quality projects with every release.
The“Conjuring” and “Annabelle” collection have managed to pull off such a feat. And they have done so in a genre that is notorious for releasing bad movies. As long as they continue to stay true to an already established universe and play on proven scare tactics, future releases will continue to be worthy of watching. Until then, it is more than safe to include “Annabelle: Creation”as an acceptable addition to an already well done series.