Horror films have been making a huge resurgence over the last few years with films like Insidious and The Conjuring making giant amounts of cash at the box office, so it should surprise no one that the studio decided the opening sequence of The Conjuring would make for a perfect spin-off/prequel movie.
To try and capture some of that goodwill they earned with The Conjuring, the film starts with the same opening scene where two young women tell Ed and Lorraine Warren their story about this doll that was haunting them. The doll was apparently a gift from one of the girl’s mothers.
The movie then jumps back in time to give us the origin story for Annabelle and we are introduced to John (Ward Horton) and Mia Form (Annabelle Wallis), a young newlywed couple that are expecting their first child. Living next door to them is an older couple that lost their daughter when she ran away to join some Manson Family type cult.
John is a bit stressed because he just got out of medical school and hasn’t landed a residency yet, and with a baby on the way things could be tight. This makes him spending an excessive amount of money on a rare doll for his wife downright bizarre. Worse, it’s one damn ugly doll.
The movie finally kicks into gear when Mia hears a scream from next door and sends her hubbie to investigate. He comes running out of the neighbor’s house covered in blood and tells Mia to call an ambulance. While doing so she is attacked by Annabelle, who turns out to be the estranged daughter of the neighbors who, along with her boyfriend, have just murdered her parents. Annabelle and her Charles Manson companion try to kill Mia and John but luckily the police arrive and shoot the boyfriend. Unfortunately, Annabelle is found dead by her own hand in the nursery holding that rare doll. Blood drips from her slashed throat into eye of the doll.
Because Annabelle died holding the doll, Mia asks John to get rid of it. Does he try and sell this rare and supposedly expensive doll? No, he instead tosses it in a trash can at the side of the house. Moron, thy name is John.
Later, the evil doll starts a fire in the kitchen, and with some kind of force attacks Mia and drags her across the floor. Neighbors arrive in time to get Mia out and to a hospital where she gives birth to a beautiful baby girl. Because of the weirdness of the fire, Mia does not want to return to the house.
Now living in an apartment building in Pasadena things are looking up. That is until Mia unpacks the last box and it contains… the doll! John is a little freaked out by this as he clearly remembers tossing it in the trash, and he is all for getting rid of the thing. But for some reason Mia has changed her mind about the dolls connection with the dead cultist and wants to keep it.
This is when the movie settles into your standard collection of creepy music stings, strange happenings and endless shots of the doll just sitting there looking fucking evil. At one point Mia goes into the apartment building’s basement to retrieve something, leaving her baby all alone proving to us she actually is a pretty shitty mother, only to have a close encounter of the demonic kind.
Horror films have one job and that is to scare you, whether that be through slow buildup of dread or from cheap jump scares, but director John R. Leonetti failed to do any of that. Its ninety minute running time felt like two hours, and causing numerous yawns with nary a hair standing on end. The film is littered with your standard movie clichés such as the helpful priest (Tony Amendola), the book store owner (Alfre Woodard) that will supply expository information, and the doubting husband. What it didn’t have was all the scares that are supposed to break up those things so you don’t fall asleep. It is also not helped by the fact that when we finally see the demon it looks like the one from Insidious, only without the Darth Maul facial tattoos.
No greater crime can be committed by a horror movie than to bore its viewer, and this one is guilty of that in spades. Hell, the doll the movie is named after doesn’t even do anything. Now I didn’t expect Chucky levels of murder and mayhem, but it didn’t even blink an eye or slowly rotate its head creepily. It just sat there like a lump. Everything was left up to the ghost/demon to do, which is also something the film kept getting confused with. Avoid this film unless you are suffering from insomnia.
Note: The “real” Annabelle doll was actually a Raggedy Anne doll and not some spooky ass porcelain doll that no one in their right mind would purchase.