Plot: John (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis) are a young married couple with a bright future, one that happens to include the pending arrival of their first child, as Mia is pregnant. Always the attentive husband, John brings his wife an antique doll for their soon to arrive child, which she loves. But before she can even appreciate the gift, a tragic turn of events unfolds, as maniacs storm the couple’s home. After the lunatics kill the neighbors, the group turns their attention toward John and Mia, attacking them in brutal fashion. But the police manage to arrive on scene just in time, shooting the intruders and helping John and Mia survive the assault. Soon after those traumatic events however, strange things begin to happen around the house and Mia wonders if she’s going crazy, or if the antique doll is involved…

Entertainment Value: The success of The Conjuring led to an entire franchise and within that cinematic universe, Annabelle would also find massive box office success and launch multiple sequels of its own. The Conjuring was inspired by real life events as told by Ed & Lorraine Warren, while Annabelle builds a fictional lore around a doll that resided in the couple’s occult collection. So yes, Annabelle is kind of based on real events, but this movie crafts an original narrative with loose connections to the very little known about the actual doll’s past. I have a soft spot for creepy doll movies, but I found Annabelle to be rather slow and while the final act has some fun moments, the journey to that point is quite drawn out. The narrative is fine and does what creepy doll movies always do, but the reliance on cheap scares and loud noises lessens the experience, at least to me. I also think the real Annabelle is much creepier than the doll used in the movie, as the real one is a simple, basic doll, while this one looks like a creepy doll designed by committee. I do think Annabelle has some fun moments however and it is better than a lot of major studio horror movies from this period, I just wish it was a little bolder and more creative. As it stands, it is a passable horror ride, but does little to stand out or be memorable.

I wouldn’t rate the cast as one of Annabelle’s strongest elements, which isn’t meant as an insult, just an observation. The eerie atmosphere of the final act tends to be the most memorable element here, as well as the doll itself, while the cast is fine, but leaves little impression. I think the two most solid turns come from performers in smaller roles, who make the most of their limited screen time. Alfre Woodard turns in her usual good work and as always, is able to elevate her scenes, while Tony Amendola is a capable presence as a priest. I just think he is believable as a priest, just a vibe or aura I suppose, but it works well. Annabelle Wallis is also more than solid, but the material doesn’t push her skills much, so it isn’t a memorable performance. Again, I think the cast is talented and their work is passable, I just wish the script gave them more to do, especially in the slower stretches. The cast also includes Kerry O’Malley, Ward Horton, Brian Howe, and Eric Laden.

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