So I just got home from seeing Annabelle: Creation, and while it was certainly a little better than Lights Out and the first Annabelle movie, I still have yet to see David Sandberg make a good movie. Because Creation has his spooge all over it.
Especially when it comes to the story. While not as borderline nonexistent as Lights Out, it is as predictable and then some. Seriously, there is not a single element to this plot that I could not predict. This movie also seems to not know the difference between a plot and a goal. This movie’s goal is to tell the Annabelle doll’s origin story and connect it seamlessly to the first Annabelle movie. And by God, it’s going to do that; damn the consequences. I also need to mention that this is one of innumerable horror movies whose plots cannot proceed, let alone function, unless one or more characters make stupid decisions and things screw up. Like poor Annabelle getting hit by a freaking car that she clearly could see coming when she runs out into the road to grab her dad’s car’s tire nut. Like poor Janice going into Annabelle’s room despite being told
MICHAEL SCOTT (The Office): NO, GOD! NO, GOD, PLEASE, NO. NO! NOOOOOO!
She not only goes into Annabelle’s room despite being told not to and basically instigates the whole demon infestation thing, but of course gets the living hell scared out of her by some spoopy supernatural fluff. And then she somehow gets the idea to go back in. Either the second or third time she goes in (my memory is a little foggy), Linda even joins her, though at least Linda has the smarts to get out of there. I also love that whenever Janice is being tormented by the evil entity (whose demonic form is played by dear Joseph Bishara (FANGASM)), she’s screaming her head off, but no one comes to help her until after the demon is done tormenting her. Even when poor little Janice gets straight-up possessed by the evil entity, nobody comes until after the demon finishes raping her (not really, but it may as well have, considering people’s reaction time, let alone response time). I also love how Janice inexplicably loses her polio after getting possessed. I also love that the demon has opportunity after opportunity to possess Janice but doesn’t take advantage of any of them until the beginning of the third act, instead resorting to trolling her and the audience for well over an hour.
I love a particular scene in which Janice goes into Annabelle’s room. She sees the ghost of Annabelle looking out of a window, and asks her why she is here and what she wants. Annabelle turns around, revealing a laugh-inducing demonic face, and growls, “YOUR SOUL!” How original! Janice flees the room and gets onto the electric stair chair and tries to flee downstairs, conveniently forgetting for twenty seconds that the damn jalopy won’t work unless the seatbelt is fastened. She gets the chair started and it moves down the stairs at a conveniently slow pace. It stops halfway, and Janice starts rapidly flicking the switch to get it going again. But because she sucks so bad, she sends the chair moving back up the stairs. I was having a blast. And then when the chair reaches the top, we get a ten second pause before something unseen yanks her up into the dark. She falls to the floor soon after. This scene, much to the ire of everyone else in the theater, made me laugh my head off. Yes; for once, I was That Guy.
Also, at the climax, possessed Janice is walking around the house, trying to kill everyone. And throughout the entire scene, I was holding back laughter as hard as I could, thinking, Oh my gosh. “Someone be scared of me!”
I also love how the story in general feels just as small-scale and depthless as Lights Out, despite actually having a serviceable running time, explaining why the movie’s pacing is so sluggish. It could have easily been cut to eighty minutes without compromising the movie’s integrity. That also explains how thinly created the characters are. While not nearly as bland and forgettable as the characters in Lights Out, the characters in Annabelle: Creation are still pretty badly constructed. Each of the characters in this movie have one character trait that will determine how they will act throughout the rest of the movie. Seriously. Each of the orphan girls have one character trait (and two of them lack even that). Sister Charlotte has one character trait. The two Mullinses have one character trait each. And Annabelle / the demon doesn’t even have a character trait. It only has a purpose, and it’s purely focused on trolling the orphans and the audience until it can fulfill its purpose.
The only two characters that have any semblance of depth at all are Janice and Linda. These two characters, despite their dumb decisions, are the best part of the movie, as well as the only two actors in this movie with a shred of talent. I’m sure the other actors have talent, but they are either barely in the movie (like poor Miranda Otto), or suffer under David Sandberg’s poor direction. Talitha Bateman as Janice and Lulu Wilson as Linda are legitimately good. Well, Lulu is better, but Talitha is pretty good too. They, and the conversations they share, are easily the best part of this movie. I love the sisterly bond they share. I love how they so easily work off each other to create two characters I actually came close to caring about. I would have cared about them had they not made stupid decisions. Unfortunately, David Sandberg’s crummy direction gets to them too in the third act. Janice gets possessed by the demon – in the same way Bathsheba possessed Carolyn in The Conjuring – and tries to kill everybody. Because that’s totally what possessed people do. And the most obvious problem with this scene was this: possessed Talitha Bateman in Annabelle: Creation is nowhere near as creepy as possessed Lulu Wilson in Ouija: Origin of Evil. Seriously, the scene in which Lulu Wilson as Doris Zander explains what it’s like to be strangled to death is one of the creepiest scenes I can think of in recent years. Also, Lulu Wilson was so effective in Ouija 2 because she had the amazing Mike Flanagan in the director’s chair. But Talitha Bateman, while good, cannot measure up to Lulu Wilson. Couldn’t the two have switched roles?
Oh, and if you haven’t seen the first Annabelle movie, the ending to Creation will be ungodly confusing. It’s a good thing I watched the first one the night before, or else I would have fallen prey to this too.
Oh, and I should probably mention that David Sandberg cannot go one movie without giving his wife Lotta Losten a cameo. That’s not really good or bad, it’s just something I noticed. Also, Alicia Vela-Bailey, the chick who played Diana in Lights Out, has a cameo as a demonified version of Mrs. Mullins.
And now we come to the horror aspects. Knowing David Sandberg’s approach to spoopy sequences like the back of my hand (crap, didn’t notice that mosquito bite there – SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH), I predicted that almost every single spoopy sequence would feature decent cinematography, but also one or more flimsy jumpscares. Those that didn’t end in said jumpscare(s) would still feature at least one. And I was absolutely right. Almost every single spoopy sequence followed the same formula. Maybe the steps to the formula were done in a different order each time, but it was still the same damn formula. And while Annabelle: Creation wasn’t quite at the same level of David Sandberg’s Jumpscare Porn as Lights Out, the Jumpscare Porn was still undeniably there to quite an extent. Though I will be the first to admit that some of these jumpscares were actually pretty effective, the fact that 95% of the spoopy sequences featured one or more jumpscares made the movie feel just like Lights Out: predictable and monotonous, and therefore boring. Worse, every last jumpscare felt entirely unnecessary and took away from whatever tension any of the spoopy sequences might have built. Every single time I got to a spoopy sequence, I thought to myself, Oh, oh, here comes a spoopy sequence. It’s getting super quiet. And since David Sandberg is at the helm, I know that there’s gonna be one or more jumpscares. So I’m just sitting there waiting for the jumpscares. That’s not fear of an evil entity. That’s anticipation of a jumpscare that may or may not happen. And that’s not scary. Getting super quiet to anticipate people for jumpscares that may or may not happen is not scary, especially if this is the case every single time a spoopy sequence rears its ugly head. It’s predictable and monotonous, and therefore boring. And this is something that David Sandberg does not understand. AND I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME UNDERSTAND WHY SO MANY HORROR FANS ARE PRAISING HIM FOR BEING LIKE EVERY STUDIO-PRODUCED HORROR MOVIE EVER WHILE PANNING BRILLIANT MASTERPIECES LIKE THE VVITCH AND IT COMES AT NIGHT. IT IS BEYOND INFURIATING. I wouldn’t be getting so pissy about this if I wasn’t aware of David Sandberg’s directing style and his ways of trying to scare the audience. I know exactly what he’s going to do in every scary sequence he ever creates. It’s not as if I expect anything good from David Sandberg; after all, he started his career making short horror films on YouTube. Because that’s totally a sign of talent. Oh, and I should mention this: there is one very prominent scary sequence that doesn’t actually feature a massive jumpscare. It’s as if David Sandberg was attempting to throw off Lights Out‘s detractors by having one single solitary instance in which he was being unpredictable. How low. How cheap.
And when you compare it to The Conjuring, Annabelle: Creation looks even worse. Though the scary sequences in The Conjuring did indeed involve jumpscares, the jumpscares in The Conjuring duology were necessary, expertly placed, and further accentuated sequences that were already freaking scary to begin with. And the scary sequences were executed in a variety of interesting and unique ways. No scary sequence was ever going to be the same as another. The Conjuring, while also being a studio-produced horror movie and being legitimately scary in its own right, was not all about the scary sequences. It was about its characters, how they interact with each other, and how they handle a series of events that spiral increasingly out of control. It featured a cast of interesting, unique, developed, lovable characters that you legitimately cared about and sympathized with. That’s what made the movie as scary as it was: the scary sequences involved characters that you actually cared for and sympathized with and did not want to see die. The movies themselves were made to be good movies first, and scary movies second. And the subject matter that The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 were about was handled with care and love, and required actual thought, effort, and heart to bring to the screen. They were lovingly crafted, and while still covered in studio bullcrap, they respected the real-life events that they based themselves off of and they respected their audience. That’s what made The Conjuring and its sequel legitimately great movies. Oh, and they both had the fantastic James Wan in the director’s chair.
And the worst thing about Annabelle: Creation is that as an installment in the The Conjuring franchise, it, like the first Annabelle movie, is entirely pointless. The Annabelle doll was scary as hell in The Conjuring. It was so much scarier when we had no idea of its backstory. It was scary enough on its own, but it was even scarier when we could only speculate where exactly it came from and how it became a conduit for a demonic entity. That’s what makes Alien: Covenant so disappointing as well: we didn’t need to know where the Xenomorphs came from, or who they were created by. They were scary as hell on their own, and the idea that we could only imagine where they came from made them even more scary. Knowing what stories not to elaborate on is just as important as knowing what stories to elaborate on. Annabelle the doll, much like the Xenomorphs, has been effectively neutered. Well, I guess the correct term would be spayed.
My mistake – this is the worst thing about Annabelle: Creation. There’s this really stupid and pointless sequence in which Sister Charlotte shows Mr. Mullins a picture of her and three other nuns in Romania. When Mr. Mullins tilts the picture the right way, you can also see Valak the Demon Nun from The Conjuring 2 in a doorway next to the four nuns. Mr. Mullins even questions Sister Charlotte about the other nun, and Sister Charlotte says she doesn’t know. This scene has no bearing on the plot, and is never mentioned again. I presume this is just a really terrible ad for the next Conjuring spin-off: The Nun. Yes, Annabelle: Creation is literally stooping to selling ad space for future movies in the Conjuring franchise. That is effing pathetic.
As much as I’m hammering this movie, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I still legitimately like the vibe between Janice and Linda, and I really like the setting, as well as the atmosphere to a certain extent. The sound design is actually pretty good. And I am so happy that David Sandberg didn’t write the script. Also, I even have to cut Annabelle: Creation a little slack. After all, last year, the Ouija franchise managed to pull off a complete 180 and make what should have been an even worse installment in an already dead franchise into one of the best horror films of 2016. So they tried to do the same with Annabelle and right the biggest wrong in the Conjuring franchise. No pressure. But to do that, you really needed a better director than David Sandberg. Getting Mike Flanagan to succeed Stiles White was a fantastic move, but they needed to get someone far better than David Sandberg to replace John Leonetti. Maybe they should have gotten Mike Flanagan again.
It’s a failed attempt to fix a big mistake, and they could have actually fixed the mistake with a much better director and a much better writer. And I’m giving Annabelle: Creation a 1.5 out of 5.