ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, OCT. 6, 2014
I’ve been a sucker for creepy-doll flicks ever since that ventriloquists’ dummy from Magic put its unblinking spell on me back in 1978. The genre has had its ups (Child’s Play) and downs (Dead Silence), but it gets a major boost with Annabelle, a prequel to last year’s over-rated The Conjuring.
Married couple Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) are enjoying an idyllic late-’60s suburban California life, waiting for their first child to arrive. She spends a lot of time sewing clothes while engrossed in General Hospital, and director John R. Leonetti instills more dread than you’d expect from the possibility of her distracted fingertips making contact with the whirring needle. One day John surprises his beloved with a child-sized antique doll, but since it’s repulsive enough to give even a randy Chucky second thoughts, it’s no wonder that’s when things start getting ugly.
In the film’s most harrowing scene Mia and John’s next-door neighbours are attacked by a pair of Satanic cultists, who then turn their Mansonesque attentions on them. When the lady psycho slits her own throat a drop of blood seeps into the doll’s buggy eyeball, making it even more hideous than before—not to mention possessed.
After Mia narrowly survives a kitchen fire they move to an apartment and have the baby, but brooding menace follows—first in the form of an unsociable twerp who hangs out on the stairs drawing nasty pictures and then as a satyr-like black demon that dwells in the basement storage area.
Most of the suspense in Annabelle is built around physical threats to the adorable baby Leah, whether they be from falling hardcover books or the grill of a garbage truck. The film boasts a good number of shocks, and while some are typical jump-scares, others—like when an evil little girl in a white nightie runs toward a door that is slowly closing and then bursts through as a full-grown evil woman in a white nightie—are most effective.
Thanks to spine-tingling moments like that Annabelle ranks as one of the most entertaining Hollywood horror outings of the year.