Saturday, December 27, 2014

ANNABELLE (2014)



Directed By: John R. Leonetti 
Written By: Gary Dauberman 
 Cinematography By: James Kniest 
Editor: Tom Elkins 


Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola, Brian Howe


John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia - a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia's delight with Annabelle doesn't last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now... Annabelle.

What is supposed to be a spinoff film from THE CONJURING. That was a mystery into the origin of the show stopper of that film Annabelle.

Here it seems to make up it's story as it God along then present it as some kind of truth. Though plays like a mishmash of better and popular horror classics. Like THE EXORCIST, ROSEMARY'S BABY. The director of this film is also the cinematographer for CHILD’S PLAY 3, a film about a killer doll named Chucky.

This origin story isn't nearly as entertaining or involving. As the true story is probably not as action oriented but interesting. Nor does it come close to what the audience expected or imagined. It's worse. Even in as excited for this film as THE CONJURING was a film that took me by surprise. I didn't expect to enjoy it and I had fun with it.

What worked for THE CONJURING. Was that it was familiar. It was truly a throwback but also contained plenty of surprises. Even when you thought you had it all figured out. The film truly managed to be creepy while having dramatic moments that stuck with you.

The baby mobile hanging over the crib plays the same tune as the music box from THE CONJURING.

This film from the beginning always feels like a movie. It never feels organic though it's based on a true story. There is plenty of set-up with a creepy vibe that feels artificial and all of the scenes feel predictable.

The film feels adequately directed. It just feels so basic.

Though the actual film would feel more scary in the 60's here it fells silly as the devil seems to want this babies soul because a worshipper killed herself holding the doll? So now the doll seems to contain her soul and she seems to have the power of a demon almost. And seems hell bent on this family no others. Never makes it clear in particular why and how they were successful. Not to mention is it a demon or the devil or just possessed by an evil spirit. Not all the same. If the devil why always the devil. He has nothing better to do? It can't be a underling? Why are they so special and getting his attention?

Strangely the film feels rushed as much seems more to be ridden over then investigated further or given any details. It gives what it promises, but doesn't deliver in full.

The film feels like it could be any anonymous horror film. It feels like then script was never written for this specific character. It seems more like a pre-existing script that we tied into the title character

Seems separate as she has visions and is haunted by certain spirits away from the doll. Which is only used as a time to time reminder. More like a totem or mascot then actually the evil to be afraid of,

Don't expect it to be exactly like THE CONJURING was, as a spinoff it of course is Supposed to create it's own style and identity. Though this is obviously a one shot as it stays one note throughout and typical and forgettable rather than original or even fully entertaining. Unless you have never seen any horror films before. If so maybe this is the film for you as a taste test.

A 1963 episode of "The Twilight Zone" called "Living Doll" involves a talking doll given to a young girl by her mother. The doll's innocent vocabulary soon takes a sinister tone, especially towards the girl's cruel stepfather. The girl's mother is named Annabelle.

Know it is hard to shock or scare the audience when it seems like we have seen it all especially in horror, but as with all films you have to accept yet turn around expectations make the audience forget the predictions or what is coming in inventive ways. Use those expectations against them. This film chooses to go basic, but it also feels boring as each scene is stained with suspense or gloom. So when something happens how is it supposed to be surprising? The scares only seen to add action to liven things up. They aren't ever fear inducing. In the audience you might just be happy and excited something finally happened and not just a sound effect or special effect.

It also seems the film and it's story is less about the doll then a haunting that follows the family. It just so happens the doll is the link. But soon the haunting seems to take over and the doll is just more used as a prop in the background. The real Annabelle doll was given to Donna (a college student at the time) by her mother in 1970. Her and her roommate Angie noticed that the doll would move subtlety, then within a few weeks became fully mobile moving from one room to another while they were gone.

The cast is average at best they play the roles the way they are supposed to even if they feel like flashback and reenactment actors on scenes of police procedures like COLD CASE or UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. They go through the motions believably but they leave no impression or impact. Except for Alfred Woodard who is arguably the biggest name in the cast. As most will immediately recognize her. Just as we all know that she deserves better films and roles then this.

Her bookseller character just so happens to be an expert in the occult and spirituality and owns a store down the block. Also just happens to live in the same apartment building? Too many coincidences throughout. Alfre Woodard hadn't seen THE CONJURING before she began working on the film. Instead she prepared by researching the true story that inspired the film.

Strangely watching the film I kept thinking that Diana Aragon (GLEE, I AM NUMBER 4) would have been a better recognizable lead, then again she might have come off as too young for the role) Rather than Annabelle Wallis

Here the doll seems to have the Contain one spirit though the film makes it seem like the gateway to hell. The movie portrays the Annabelle doll as a porcelain doll, but the real Annabelle doll is a large "Raggedy Ann" doll. The Warrens had a special case built for Annabelle inside their Occult Museum, where she resides to this day.

I understand mixing facts with Hollywood bluster, but this is pushing it too far. The film plays more like pure fantasy. It never feels like it comes near any kind of truth. So along the running time it keeps losing credibility and weakens the franchise. When Annabelle is shown being purchased by the woman in the thrift store at the end of the film, the camera pans across the screen to show a Raggedy Ann doll sitting across the room from Annabelle. This is likely an homage to the original Raggedy Ann doll that the film was based on.

Spoiler

The film is so cliche ridden it even keeps the one about African Americans in cinema sacrificing themselves to save all the other characters, usually all Caucasians. Making it an easier sacrifice after earlier and throughout reminding us she has no family really. So she is here to fill the prophecy of the cliche so to speak.

SPOILER END

It's a shame as this film had so much potential only to see it squandered, by trying to hollywood it up too much

GRADE: D

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