Bluray Review: ANNABELLE

dSOHdwBThe success of 2013’s James Wan-directed haunted family film THE CONJURING scored big at not only the box office, but with genre films all across the boards. It brought old school terror back in a big way, with its focus being more based on setting a tone and allowing it grow more unsettling as the film went on. With as big of a hit as it became, sequels, spin-offs and god knows what else were instantly green-lit, and the first of those films to have been given the spin-off treatment was ANNABELLE, a prequel based on a doll that had a few minutes of screen time in THE CONJURING, yet was something that audiences latched onto immediately (when WB was promoting THE CONJURING, a lot of us writers were sent Annabelle dolls as promotional materials and let me tell ya, my kids are still mad at WB for that one).

So while it’s a pleasurable idea to see any element of THE CONJURING revisited in some capacity, unfortunately, ANNABELLE finds itself lacking in a lot of ways that THE CONJURING didn’t, relying more on scares (a lot of which do work) than character development.


THE MOVIE:

Taking place a good while before the events of THE CONJURING, ANNABELLE focuses instead on a Mia and John (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton), a young pregnant couple, who are victims of a brutal attack by their neighbors’ wayward daughter (named Annabelle) who had joined a Manson-like cult and not only kills her parents, but does her best to murder John and the pregnant Mia. The cult-influenced Annabelle kills herself, but not before leaving a Satanic mark of blood on the young couple’s wall, and having some of her blood dripped right into the eyes of a doll that John had given Mia. Soon after, strange and supernatural events happen, with everything slammed shut doors to a full on fire almost killing the pregnant Mia.

When wanting to rid themselves of the horrible past incident and supernatural elements that transpired at their first house, John, Mia, and their newborn daughter move to a nice apartment building, and though John left the doll in the trash at the previous home, like any horror fan can tell, that damned doll is in one of their moving boxes, with Mia deciding to keep it anyway.

With the doll in the apartment, and the complete evil using the doll as a conduit, Mia is put through absolute hell, and the film has quite a few scary and fear-induced moments, that’s undeniable, but where it lacks is how underdeveloped the leads of John and Mia are. They come off like blank slates, and make some decisions that as a horror viewer, you have to stop and ask yourself, “are you serious?”. Mia lays her newborn daughter down for a nap, takes the elevator ALL the way to the apartment building’s basement, had quite the ordeal with some evil (the demon is played by composer and frequent Wan monster Joseph Bishara), all while her baby is many stories above her…things like that are quite frequent in ANNABELLE.

Where the film’s saving grace (or at least the best attempt at having one) comes from the performance of Alfre Woodard (12 YEARS A SLAVE, Desperate Housewives) as Evelyn, a book seller who has experience in losing a loved one and knows enough about the occult and various other forms of demonology enough to do her best to save John and Mia from losing not only their lives, but the soul of their daughter. Even the character of Evelyn could have used a bit more developing, as she’s a very interesting character, but like the rest of the cast, we as a viewers just don’t get much in that area. While James Wan’s THE CONJURING provided you with a family you cared about in demonic trouble, it’s prequel (this time directed by frequent James Wan DP, John R. Leonetti) trades in that great character development in for a film that at times is pretty terrifying and scary, but without characters that you find yourself rooting for. If you want to jump a few times or get your date to slide a bit closer to you, this is a movie for you, but if you’re wanting the kind of character development of THE CONJURING, you might be better off just revisiting that one.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

In the supplemental area, we’re given a few deleted scenes that don’t really warrant focusing on, along with a few short EPK’s regarding the curse of Annabelle, the Dolls and the design of the film, as well as one on the demonic elements of the film.


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