Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Movie Review: Annabelle (2014)



John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia - a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia's delight with Annabelle doesn't last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now... Annabelle.

First things first...

This movie Annabelle is a sort of prequel and spin off to last years The Conjuring. Now, I saw that movie but have since forgotten much about it so I've been reading up on it to sort of refresh my memory and to my vague recollection it was a pretty good movie. And to my recollection that movie made a sort of passing mention about Annabelle in order to establish the Warrens as professionals in the world of supernatural studies.  Now in that movie, The Conjuring, you meet the nurses who own Annabelle and learn about why they called the Warrens in to help them. But of course you don't get the whole story. So let's get to that first.

Below is my attempt at covering the actual story of Annabelle from reading a bunch of websites. 

So Annnabelle is actually real. It does exist and right now its current home is in the Warren's Occult Museum in Monroe Connecticut. You can't just walk in to see her anymore, you have to find out when a Warrenology event is scheduled, book yourself a spot and try to get there when it happens. And Annabelle does not look anything like what you think it looks like. It doesn't look at all demonic or evil. If someone passed her to you and said it was Annabelle you'd probably think they were joking with you. Real life is never the way movies portray it.

See that real Annabelle. cute and totally innocent looking doll in there? That's the real Annabelle.

Anyway, back to Annabelle. The movie The Conjuring did get that part of the story right, there really was a couple of nurses and one of them was given Annabelle by her mother. There was also a guy that hung around and he did experience things that freaked him out. It was after his experience that the Warrens were called in to consult but prior to that the nurses, Donna and Angie had called in a medium who told them that the doll was 'inhabited' by the spirit of a seven year old girl named Annabelle Higgins. The medium also told them that Annabelle's body was found in the field that their apartment was built on a long time ago. The reason why the called in the medium? When Donna noticed what looked like blood on her chest and the back of her hand. Apparently having the doll move on its own and leaving note on parchment paper which they never had in the apartment is not enough. 

When they were told the tragic story of Annabelle they figured she was a harmless spirit looking for some company. They were very wrong. Things started to get weirder but strangely enough it happened when Angie's boyfriend was around, the story goes that one day while checking out some maps for an upcoming trip they heard a rustling noise in the other room. They checked the room out but found nothing, except that when Lou was in there he felt uneasy and not much later he found himself in pain, he checked himself and he found that he had been scratched several times. 

The real Ed and Lorraine Warren with the real Annabelle. Still not very scary looking.

When the Warrens showed up Donna and her roommates had had enough and asked the Warrens to take Annabelle with them. And that's how the Warrens got hold of Annabelle. If you really want to know the story in better detail check out these sites, The Story of Annabelle at  this link goes to the official site apparently, and this one  History vs. Hollywood: The Annabelle Story this link takes you to an article that breaks down the difference between the movie and what really happened. 

Crazy people that want to kill you always hide in your closet where you just got your robe from... 
©Warner Bros


Okay, so this movie has yet to hit the cinemas so there's no ratings yet on any of the major movie sites. And if you've read my previous entry on another horror movie you'll know that I'm not a major fan of the genre, I'm more a fan of a good story done and told well than any particular genre. That said I'll be looking at this movie much like I look at any other movie, based on its own merits. As mentioned before Annabelle is sort of a prequel and spin-off to last years The Conjuring, but truthfully even if you've never seen The Conjuring you won't miss a thing and in fact after watching Annabelle watching The Conjuring won't really add anything or take anything from or to it. It can pretty much stand on its own. 

The Conjuring did really well and in fact became the highest grossing movie of its genre, it was made for a mere $20 million but made over $318 million worldwide which is really impressive, what makes it even more impressive is that it was directed by a man who shares the same nationality as myself, the Sarawak-born James Wan which means he's Malaysian. He's one of the few Malaysians that's really made a name for himself out there in Hollywood. Or at least that I know of other that Michelle Yeoh but she made it in front of the camera whereas he is behind it so kudos to him.

But that was The Conjuring this is Annabelle, James Wan is not at the director's chair this time but is instead in the producers, so we'll see if his magic touch is still present here. 

If this movie is to be believed just bleeding on something while really wanting to do something means you can possess that thing. Helps if you're a satanist of course. ©Warner Bros

The movie starts off with us meeting the Forms, a newly-married and expecting couple. She's a homemaker and he's a medical student on the verge of getting his residency with a hospital. The live in a nice little house in a nice neighborhood next to a lovely couple who's daughter just recently up and disappeared one day. The Forms, Jon and Mia are a little stressed lately with his upcoming residency and her pregnancy nearing the end so Jon being the sweet husband that he is locates for his loving wife a doll to complete her collection. She's been searching for this doll for ages apparently. You know who this doll is of course. Frankly speaking, with the way Annabelle looks only a collector will find it appealing or even attractive. Any sane person will think there's something wrong with that doll or think that it's got something evil about it the moment they laid eyes on it. It's ugly and evil looking. The person who made that doll must be insane and/or evil. Of course this is just for the movie, the real Annabelle is about as evil looking as Hello Kitty is of looking gross. 

Anyway, at this point Annabelle is not at all evil, malicious or inhabited by a demonic spirit. It's just a doll. An ugly, evil looking doll.

Here's where the doll gets to be evil. One fine evening while everyone is asleep their neighbors daughter returns home with her boyfriend. She's been hanging out with a unique group of individuals who believe in an alternative religion and her return back home has very much to do with that new group of friends and their beliefs. If you've seen the trailer it's that scene where the Mia wakes up when she hears someone scream in the house next door, that's when their neighbors are being stabbed to death by their own daughter. 

Husbands that give creepy looking dolls to their wives either need to have their heads checked or need to talk to their wives about their creepy collection. ©Warner Bros

Anyway, Jon goes to check in on the neighbor while Mia hangs around the porch waiting for him. He eventually shows up covered in blood screaming at Mia to call the police. She goes back in the house to call of course but in the panic she leaves the front door open. This of course is an open invitation for the crazy couple to sneak in. What happens next is in the trailer, they jump her and try to kill her. Jon gets back in time and manages to beat them back just as the police themselves show up and shoots the boyfriend dead. Crazy neighbor daughter manages to escape into the baby's room holding on to Annabelle. The cops smash open the door only to find crazy neighbor daughter has slit her own throat. Guess what the name of crazy neighbor daughter is? Annabelle Higgins. So there you go, the fictitious version of how Annabelle the doll received her name. 

Anyway mother and baby survive and a few days later they return home. All is put back to normal and they try to move on with their lives. But strange things start to happen. Strange unexplainable things. They think nothing of it of course at first until one evening while Jon is a way at a seminar and Mia is home alone. She's watching TV while doing a little sewing nothing's amiss until she hears a noise in the kitchen. She goes to check it out only to discover the entire kitchen is up in flames, she panics and turns to run but is tripped when a chair suddenly pulls out just slightly to catch her foot. She falls and begins to crawl toward the front door but as she's trying to do that something suddenly grabs her by the leg and pulls her back towards the kitchen. Whatever it was that did it didn't get to pull her all the way back in because just then the neighbors break down her front door. 

Jon rushes back home and meets Mia at the hospital where he also discovers his brand new baby girl. He also has news of his own, he's received his residency and soon they'll be moving away from their current home. 

Seriously look at that doll. Compared to the others, it looks utterly evil. ©Warner Bros

So now they're in their new home and they're unpacking and they're unpacking in the babies room. Mia is taking out her dolls and putting them up on the shelf when she opens another box and finds the doll in there. Jon threw the doll away before they moved so they have no idea how it got in there but this doesn't bother Mia for some reason and she decides to put it up on the shelf with the other dolls. Bad idea. 

Things start happening again and it only happens to Mia when she's alone. She tells Jon but he's skeptical at first but offers a solution which is to talk to their priest. Meanwhile Mia befriends Evelyn, a woman in the building who works at a bookstore nearby. Things of course gets worse and worse as is expected from movies like this before it gets better. 

Yeah staring at it won't make it go away. Burn it, burn it to HELL!! ©Warner Bros

Mia is trapped in the storage area of her apartment where she sees what appears to be a demon. She's trapped inside the baby's room when she goes in to check on a noise and while she's in there her baby is outside with the doll, when she manages to get out she sees the doll levitate and just as the doll gets to her eye level Mia spots something holding the doll up. The priest shows up and offers to take the doll back with him to the church but just as he gets to the door of the church Annabelle Higgins appears and he's tossed like a rag-doll backwards. It all culminates back at the apartment after Mia and Evelyn return home from a day out and this time the demon really means business. He wants someone soul and he won't leave without it. 

You see the whole reason for the supernatural, the demonic activity is because Annabelle Higgins and her boyfriend were part of a cult. A cult trying to call up demons and the devil himself, and to do that they needed to provide a sacrifice, a soul. And since Annabelle didn't succeed in getting Mia's soul before she killed herself, her spirit stayed on in the doll in order to accomplish that goal. 

In the end Mia is still alive and the Form's move on with their lives. Annabelle the doll disappears only to reappear in a junk store to be bought by the mother of one of the nurses that you see in the beginning of this movie and in that one scene in The Conjuring. All is not well.

Oh look it's that Japanese ghost that keeps showing up in every movie, or not. ©Warner Bros

What this casual fan of all things supernatural, weird and odd thinks... 

This movie for the most part for me was unremarkable. In fact it was completely predictable. I'll give you an example, just before the evening that crazy daughter returns to kill her parents, Mia is sitting in front of the TV listening to a news report on murders committed by cults, guess what the crazy neighbor daughter and her boyfriend are wearing when they commit their evil deeds? All white and her boyfriend is wearing a belt with a huge devil head as a belt buckle. The scary bits are also sort of predictable if you've seen enough horror movies. You can guess at what's about to happen just by paying attention to how the scene is set-up and how the camera is angled. So unless you've been hiding under a blanket every time something scary pops up then nothing here will surprise you.

With regards to the story of Annabelle it's a little strange in my opinion. We are made to believe that Annabelle follows Mia from place to place in order to get her or her daughters soul but at the end of the movie the Forms are fine and Annabelle ends up in a junk shop. So what's the point then of following Mia around and harassing her if any other soul can be used to replace hers? Shouldn't any pliable and weak soul do? She killed her mother and father and for some reason a random neighbor and her unborn baby is her target? Up until that evening when they decided to check out the neighbor they had no idea who the Forms were which means that if they were a cult and their ceremony required a sacrifice they weren't very specific about their requirements. If they were why bother killing a bunch of old people if what you wanted was a young pregnant woman? 

But I'm letting common sense and logic get in the way now when the main problem I have with this movie is that it's just too predictable. Pay enough attention and you can tell what's going to happen next. Even in the beginning third of the movie when it's actually pretty slow paced and almost bordering on dull it's predictable. 

Who needs a Nanny-Cam when you can have Annabelle-Cam. Scare your babysitter straight! ©Warner Bros

The actors for the most part I've not really seen before and with the exception of  Mia and Evelyn are pretty bland. Jon seems a little cold and distant when acting as the concerned husband. Mia played by Annabelle Wallis does a decent job but nothing impressive. Alfre Woodard who plays Evelyn probably has the best performance in this movie but her scenes are few and far between and she really doesn't get much to work with when she does, the one scene that stands out for me is when she talks about her daughter. 

To sum it up, for me this movie was nothing special. It certainly doesn't live up to The Conjuring and it most certainly doesn't add to it. It was just too predictable and at the beginning a little too slow. The scary parts are only scary because they jump out at you if you're not paying attention or haven't seen all the horror movies of the past few years. It's all the same tricks that's been done before. Nothing new here. I don't know what I was expecting from this movie but even without any expectations I found it a little disappointing. 

For this prequel to a pretty good movie that came out last year I give it a somewhat disappointing 2 out of 5. Would I recommend you watch this movie? If you're a horror movie fan, why not? Just don't expect anything new. If you want to know about Annabelle? Then forget it.




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