Annabelle is a prequel of sorts to The Conjuring, detailing the origins of the haunted doll that showed up in the prologue to last year’s horror hit. I actually just watched The Conjuring for the first time this week and I thought it was a great slow burn haunted house flick that also served as a nice throwback to horror films of the 70s. Expertly directed and filled with lots of great scares and tension, The Conjuring is certainly going to be in my annual Halloween rotation for many years to come. So, does Annabelle live up to its predecessor’s reputation?
No, it doesn’t. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not an effective and fun little horror movie that still has a handful of good scares.
Great Opening, Sluggish Middle
The film starts strong with a tense scene depicting a break in by a few insane satanic cult members that sets the haunting of our titular doll in motion. Director John Leonetti deserves credit for building an appropriate amount of dread and tension for the scene. The film also shares much of the same score as its predecessor, helping shape an eerie mood for the film.
The main issue with Annabelle is that once we get past the solid opening, things slow down considerably. Mia and John, the couple being haunted by Annabelle, are played by newcomers Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton, and once they start dealing with the effects of the attack the two actors are forced to act out scenes we’ve seen dozens of times before in horror films. Mia is becoming convinced something evil is in their home while John works too much and thinks she is just being a silly woman. It’s not the actors fault of course, and they’re fine in the roles, but it’s pretty grating and obvious for the viewer, especially since we’ve been down this road before many, many times.
Thankfully though, things pick up in the third act, with director Leonetti again staging a few more startling set pieces. One moment in particular involving a swinging door had me frozen and wide-eyed in my seat. A ringing endorsement for a horror film if there ever was one!
Fun Horror Flick for Halloween
The films ending doesn’t quite live up to its scares, becoming a bit obvious as it nears the climax, though veteran actress Alfre Woodard ( 12 Years A Slave, True Blood) does her best to add some gravitas to the proceedings. Still, even with a slow middle and somewhat disappointing ending, Annabelle still made me jump, quite a few times as a matter of fact. So if you’re looking for a fun and scary movie to watch this Halloween, Annabelle should do the trick.
Jordan Hunt covers the movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews.