Annabelle has left the comfort of James Wan’s The Conjuring in the John Leonetti-directed spinoff that sees the doll haunt a couple who begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists. The big question we all had when Annabelle was first announced was whether or not she could carry her own feature film. Sure, she’s creepy in The Conjuring, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that Wan used her sparingly, only allowing us to see her when it mattered most. Would Leonetti be able to pull off a similar effect? Not quite.
Annabelle does a good job of setting its story in motion as it offers a quick introduction to its characters before immediately throwing them into a horrifying situation. This, unfortunately, is the best thing Annabelle has to offer as it quickly becomes as lifeless as its dolls. With such a fantastic start—one that is spoiled in its entirety thanks to its first trailer—Leonetti somehow steers the rest of the film aimlessly, delivering nothing but dull, cliche-ridden scares.
But perhaps the most frustrating thing about Annabelle is that it completely throws away what few scares there are. Any tension built or lurking demon in the dark turns out to be a missed opportunity as Leonetti opts to deliver a jump scare rather than something creative. The film is a total mess in that regard.
Not once does it try to be inventive or push Annabelle’s story beyond what we already knew; it instead tries so hard to hold onto the appeal created by The Conjuring. It slowly jumps from one boring conversation to the next, only to fill the gaps with insentient scares that rely on loud noises and nothing more. It’s as by-the-numbers as a horror movie gets, so if you’re expecting something fresh and exciting, you won’t be finding it here.
My fear upon hearing the announcement of an Annabelle feature film was that the studio was just trying to cash in on The Conjuring‘s success, knowing that if they associate it with Annabelle that it was guaranteed to draw people to theaters. As much as I hate to say it, that’s exactly what this is. It’s a scareless affair that deserved so much more because believe it or not, there’s an interesting story within heart of Annabelle, one that should have been exploited with a terrifying narrative of demons and the innocent lives they hope to destroy. As much as Annabelle tries to be The Conjuring, it couldn’t be further from it.