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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Annabelle | Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD



The tagline reads before The Conjuring there was Annabelle.

Annabelle refers to the possessed doll mentioned in the prologue of 2013's more effective scare fest, The Conjuring which was based on the (supposedly) true story of world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who were recruited to help a family terrorized by a sinister presence in a secluded farmhouse.

To create an unsettling atmosphere, this prequel is set in 1969 California when news about the heinous murders by the Manson cult is reported on TV and flashed across the headlines. The plot then follows a   Church going new mother fearful of Satanic cults who is terrorized by a creepy doll her husband gave her as a gift for her vintage doll collection while she was pregnant.

Right away, you have to question what sane person would give this scary looking doll with its huge, evil dark eyes and weird grin (reminiscent of Bette Davis's character in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane) to a loved one or why anyone would even want to own, let alone have it in their home or near their baby.  Only in movies, only in movies.

That said, before her baby girl Leah is born, pregnant Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her doctor husband John (Ward Horton) are awakened by screaming coming from next door only to find the couple living there have been brutally murdered by their daughter, Annabelle, and her boyfriend, members of a Satanic cult.  Soon after, the killers break into Mia and John's home and proceed to stab the couple before the police arrive to shoot the intruders, but not before the woman slashes her own throat and her blood seeps into the eye of the aforementioned creepy doll held in her grasp.

Mia and John survive the attack, but decide to move to out of their house after frightening, unexplained things begin to happen, topped by a life threatening fire in their kitchen. The couple proceed to take up residence in an apartment building in Pasadena, not that it makes any difference, since it doesn't stop the evil presence from tagging along.  A meeting with their church's priest, Father Perez ((Tony Amendola) who offers to help, doesn't exactly work out well, to put it mildly.

In place of The Conjuring's director James Wan, taking the helm is The Conjuring's cinematographer John R. Leonett (mostly known as director of photography on flicks such as Sleepy Hollow, The Conjuring and Insidious) working from Gary Dauberman's unoriginal script that borrows elements from Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist and others of this genre. Unfortunately, Leonetti doesn't deliver any real suspense or show imagination.  What we get is just more of the same run of the mill formulaic stuff we've seen in countless horror films involving a creepy looking doll possessed by a sinister force or demon. The check list of horror movie cliches include a creaky rocking chair, electronics that turn on by itself, TV static, lights that flicker, doors slamming, a dark staircase, gloomy basement, fleeting images of a ghost and/or demon, and so on, none of which are so frightening that it caused me to jump or to be on the edge of my seat.

It doesn't help that the lead couple are unimpressive. Annabelle Wallis is wooden as Mia, the tormented mother of an adorable baby girl that she is trying to keep safe, but displays stupid, unrealistic behavior.  And Ward Horton as Mia's husband who is hardly ever around, leaving her alone to suffer the horrific consequences, is nothing more than bland. It is hard to feel sympathy for such a boring couple who have no personality and, for the most part, act dumb.

The underused, talented actress Alfre Woodard is wasted as the owner of a bookstore who conveniently befriends Mia, and from her own personal experience offers knowledge of a demonic force that severely impacted her life.  

Audiences that have seen The Conjuring will most likely be drawn to this prequel to find out the story behind Annabelle, but will leave the theatre disappointed by its one note performances, lack of terror and surprises, and for being so predictable.  Add forgettable and that about sums it up.


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