Annabelle Wallis, playing leading character Mia, is an expectant mother who receives a beautiful porcelain doll as a gift from her husband John (Ward Horton.) The happiness of motherhood will soon be interrupted however, as the two are viciously attacked by two satanic cultists which promptly brings to life the story of Annabelle and her soon to follow string of terrifying events. Beginning with the story, it honestly had me on the edge of my seat through the entirety of the film itself. I thought it was immersive, creative and definitely terrifying. Everything they wanted to achieve and more. With clear views that this is a piece of James Wan’s imagination, we can see his distinct niche at play. He’s taken an already bone chilling true story and turned it into serious nightmare fuel. The fact that this film leads in from the original segment in the Conjuring, really adds that extra sense of depth and gets you in the mood to finally see what all the fuss was about over this doll. This perfectly leads into the faded colour scheme that makes the movie seem as old as it’s supposed to be, leading you in to the vintage world that this movie is set in. The characters are played excellently, by two characters who perfectly feed from each others on screen energy. The chemistry and the work put in pays of and is fascinating.
The cinematography is intense and uses a lot of negative space to gather the effect of what’s going on out of a crucial character’s viewpoint. We’re seeing something that they don’t, making us as much as a key part of the movie as the actors are. Using a lovely soundtrack to enhance tense and disturbing moments, we’re drawn into a world with a lot of darkness and realism. Lots of key elements within the movie did in fact happen to the original owners, but the majority of the story is fictional with a few actual facts thrown in. I think that this makes the movie a staple to Hollywood horror, as it did add in some of the original facts, even if they were little easter eggs hidden in various areas. With the addition of a mid movie thunderstorm that awakens the newfound demonic addition to the movie, things take a turn for the seriously disturbing, and it was truly terrifying.
There were so many other elements to this film, such as the aforementioned demon that makes his appearance a way into the film. Though he does slightly take the attention away from Annabelle, the main focus, he’s a great addition purely because it works into the story of the cultists that kick off the events. It ties up an end, and I think it worked in the movie’s favour. There’s lots of typical horror stereotypes intertwined with this film’s good bits, but it’s all for that added sense of unease and of course, horror. It’s an experience, and I wouldn’t feel the same if a horror movie didn’t have that typical jumpscare created with a string instrument, or if it didn’t have a build up to show a faulty piece of electrical equipment turn itself on. It’s all part of the fun and the experience of the movie, and I wouldn’t fault that at all. You can really feel elements of other classic horrors here with atmospheres like those in Rosemary’s Baby. Sometimes the movie feels a little cramped and honestly, there can be a sense of claustrophobia, but that really gave me the inevitable goosebumps I was hoping for.
With John Leonetti directing after being cinematographer for The Conjuring, we can really see elements of the ‘prequel’ at work. James Wan as producer made that clear. The elements are all there within his personal style mixed in with Leonetti’s own. I definitely think it’s the one to watch this year, an incredible addition to the horror genre.
Give it a go if you haven’t already, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Let me know what you think in the comments.