Annabelle: Creation is the prequel slash creation story for the original Annabelle, which in turn was a prequel to the prologue to The Conjuring. Are you confused yet?
Annabelle: Creation is another installation in the fast-growing Conjuring universe -- a film series looking to follow the trail blazed by the likes of Marvel or DC with their expansive cinematic universes. With four films already on the roster, consisting of Conjuring 1 and 2, Annabelle and now Annabelle: Creation, more spinoffs are already set to follow.
The original Annabelle was a disappointing movie, but it still managed to come through with the jump scares. The prequel suffers from some of the same faults as its predecessor, but is an overall stronger film with more interesting, likable characters -- while retaining some of those amazing jump scares.
Annabelle: Creation is helmed by David F. Sandberg, the Lights Out filmmaker who went from making films in his apartment for Vimeo to directing a feature film produced by James Wan. Despite his small-scale beginnings, Sandberg has shown again that his grasp of feature-length horror is still better than many horror directors with far more titles under their belts.
There's a particular formula to Conjuring universe films, and if you've seen any of them, Annabelle: Creation will feel familiar. It's the classic haunted house set-up: the characters move into a stately, expansive old home full of secret hiding places and ominous dark places. The film introduces you to unique quirks of the house, letting your mind start ruminating early on all the potential scares to come. It settles in for the set-up, throwing in a few gotcha jump scares just to keep you on your toes until the real evil sets in.
It's standard horror fare, but a well-executed version of it. You'll have plenty of opportunities to watch through your fingertips, whispering "get out, don't go in there" to characters who clearly have no sense of self-preservation. While some scares are overdone, sometimes showing too much of what would be more effective as an unseen assailant, many of the film's scariest moments simmer perfectly in unbearable tension.
The weakest point in the film was a flaw that let Sandberg down in Lights Out as well -- explaining the entire backstory in one exposition-heavy (and kind of cliche) flashback. That's right, even though Annabelle: Creation is meant to be (surprise) the story of Annabelle's creation, the movie actually skips past that 'creation' point and then laboriously returns to it in said flashback.
In case you forget at any point that the film is connected to a larger universe, Annabelle: Creation will remind you. A nod to The Nun spinoff here, a throwback to The Conjuring there, the film really pushes the connections it has to both the titles that have come before it and the ones that are yet to be made. There's even a wink or two to the original, 'real' Annabelle myth. Depending on what kind of person you are, you'll either love or hate these little easter eggs and references.
Overall it's a solid contribution to the Conjuring world, and the best on-screen treatment Annabelle's ever received. It's enough to make me excited for future films in the same universe, and to see what director David Sandberg does next with his natural knack for the genre.
Here's what the rest of our team thought of the film:
Tegan Jones, Commercial Editor
I went into Annabelle: Creation expecting little more than another 100-minute jump-scare. What I got was a surprisingly fun movie!
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of DOLL SUDDENLY APPEARS moments, but I think there was a little more depth to this prequel. Any horror flick that involves messing with kids has always felt particularly disturbing and scary to me – and the new Annabelle had that in spades.
More importantly, it’s the perfect film for an audience looking to collectively heckle the characters. Everyone does stupid things, Miranda Otto becomes The Phantom 2.0, the actual ‘creation’ plot point was explained in a weak flashback – it was everything you need for a great B-Grade horror.
It definitely isn’t the strongest entrant into The Conjuring universe, but it’s a respectable one that you’ll enjoy just fine if you go into it with a healthy appreciation for the corny.
Lauren Ritchie, Office Manager
The horror genre is notorious for providing bad films yet, as someone who has watched a plethora of bad horror films, I don’t think this is one of them. If Annabelle: Creation’s goal was to strike fear into me at least once, it succeeded -- and easily surpassed the first Annabelle film on every level. The film was well-paced and made clever use of the Annabelle doll. The moments when the doll was doing nothing at all made for some of the creepiest scenes.
The backstory being explained in the first ten minutes was probably my least favourite part, but if you can get through that and expect nothing more than a solid horror film, you are in for a treat. Miranda Otto’s role was a little unpolished, but the writing in general wasn't a strength in this film. However, not relying on visual CGI horror and going back to the genre's roots made for a fun ride that any Conjuring 'universe' fan will enjoy.