When The Conjuring came out, I, like many enjoyed it a great deal. Not necessarily like many, and moreover, a bit uncharacteristically; I was really psyched about the prospect of Annabelle. It was one of the rare cases where I thought a prequel, or more appropriately, a spin-off had the potential to expand a bit of backstory into a feature-length tale on equal footing with its progenitor.
After having seen it, however, it did bring to mind Dario Argento’s response to when I asked if he ever considered further examining the backstory of Deep Red. Basically, what this ended up feeling like was a vacuous money-grab even though it, and the Deep Red concept, still could theoretically work.
What Anabelle lacks is not only atmosphere, which it is sadly in wont of throughout, but also a compelling narrative. In The Conjuring James Wan and the Hayes brothers wrung out so much effect from this doll affectation to give the protagonists a background you were left wanting more, in getting it you are left dissatisfied.
One issue the film contends with is that it’s not really an origin. The accursed doll comes to the couple at the center of this story and they deal with it. However, that’s not really a fault of the film. One true fault is that its zest for innovation peters out on the first act when introducing the notion that the world is changing in light of the Charles Manson killings. Much of the rest of the film following the inciting sequence is methodical and rote, and rarely introduces a wrinkle that is unique to this tale.
There. Are you scared yet? No, well then don’t see this movie, because as it is unable to generate palpable atmosphere, real concern, or interest, in its characters the film then resorts mostly to jump- and false-scares. This is really a shame because the score does have some nice moments but it has to be an accomplice to the lacking script and direction and try and pry scares out of its prospective audience.
One would think that it would be hard to bungle a film wherein one protagonist is either pregnant or raising an infant, but this film manages to quite easily. Some milquetoast performances along with all else that’s plain to lacking really doesn’t help.
To add insult to injury the obligatory, somewhat open ending is as anticlimactic as the rest of the film is. It’s rare I use the phrase “forgettable” as it usually employed crassly, but when one has recently experienced a film so empty, so devoid of soul and verve, that you could easily forget that you just saw it. “Forgettable” one of the most fitting words there are.