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Movie Review: ‘Annabelle: Creation’ Does Decent Doll Horror

Dolls have always been pitched as staples of movie horror, but I don’t see the fright in such figures. They’re small, light and fragile enough that you can punch, kick, toss or chuck them a few yards with ease. This is why 2014’s Annabelle was such a lackluster movie by focusing so heavily on a rigid doll that all a ghost could do to make her creepy was hold it up to create the illusion of movement. And this is why the prequel film Annabelle: Creation is far more effective as the doll is the least frightening thing in the movie.

Annabelle: Creation Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
Probably not the kind of doll you’d give as a birthday present.

Staged as a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, which was in itself a prequel to 2013’s The Conjuring, the film details the creation of Annabelle as both the doll and the legend. She was built by dollmaker Samuel Mullins who had the perfect rural family life. So, of course, his living daughter Annabelle must suffer a cruel death. Enter the Pet Semetary logic of bringing your daughter back, where the Mullins strike a deal with a demon to briefly have visions of their daughter running around the house. But, surprise, it’s not really their daughter but a hideous and blood-thirsty devil! You really have to read that demonic fineprint.

The Mullins household becomes more full when the family decides to take in the girls of a closed orphanage. Having confined their daughter’s demonic presence to the doll that is now locked away in her room, the Mullins think nothing of having little girls in the house. Surely they won’t venture inside a locked room of toys and unleash the spirit of Annabelle into the house once more.

Annabelle: Creation Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
Nobody thought to burn that thing?

Of course, their curiosity will get the better of them and set Annabelle free to claim souls. Or a body? Or blood? It’s hard to tell what exactly she wants, but it’s clear that she’s not a people person, choosing to fling bodies off staircases and vomit black goo into the mouths of others.

A big problem with 2014’s Annabelle was that the frights rely entirely on a standard female ghost running around and holding up a doll. The possessive spirit of the Annabelle doll in Creation doesn’t even need the doll to be scary. The Mullins don’t need it to see their daughter and the orphaned girls don’t need it to be terrorized by bumps in the nights and the slamming of doors. The doll in this film acts more or less as a vessel for the spirit, more akin to the lamp of a genie. All one has to do is release the toy from its closeted prison of holy water and wallpaper of Bible passages to turn the house into a haunted hell.

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The film focuses mostly on the scares that are more entertaining for their construction than their delivery. A Polio-stricken girl relies on a rickety motorized chair to take her up the stairs and will later try to use it to get away from Annabelle. The chair will go through a series of malfunctions including not starting properly, breaking down and going the wrong direction. When her chair sends her back up the stairs, Annabelle will mount a surprise attack not from behind the walls, but from above! There’s something so admirable and hilarious for the creativity of a haunted house terrorizing little girls.

Annabelle: Creation Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
What a pretty face.

Not all the scares are that creative, however, as the movie does rely on a feast of jump scares. There’s at least a higher percentage of jump scares that reveal something scary as opposed to another character loudly entering the frame to break the silence.

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