***Caution: May contain spoilers***
Annabelle is a horror ‘based on a true story’ with the emergence of this ghostly genre with titles such as Paranormal Activity, The Amityville Horror and The Conjuring up it’s sleeve, we all know the based on a true story has to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.
I headed to the local Odeon cinema with our regular horror fanatic Dale Trett and my trademark cheesy nachos in tow, we checked out the latest horror offering available from the cinema. The first point to make is that Annabelle is the spin off from the Annabelle doll in The Conjuring.
Annabelle is a tricky one, it is loosely based on true events about a raggedy ann doll seemingly possessed by something that has never been human, basically a demonic force. The filmmakers have taken artistic licence with Annabelle as you’ll notice, she is one f*cking creepy porcelain doll and definitely not the the innocent looking raggedy ann doll.
The doll isn’t the only artistic licence the filmmakers have taken, the story doesn’t center around the two nurses in The Conjuring but around a new couple that begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists. This is almost Annabelle’s made up origin story.
Setting the Scene
The film starts in 1970, two young women and a young man are telling Ed and Lorraine Warren about their experiences with a doll named Annabelle which they believe to be haunted.
A year before in 1969 there is an old house in an idyllic, religious village. The two main characters Mia and John, with Mia expecting a child, live there. Quickly introduced are two other characters Pete and Sharon Higgins. It is mentioned in a passing conversation that their daughter has gone missing. (Later revealed to be Annabelle Higgins) Missing but believed to have joined a satanic cult. This neighbourhood is one where people have no need for locks or consciousness of security and everything feels beautifully safe…
The safeness of the opening scenes does not last long in Annabelle and soon the audience is subjected to some pretty unsettling scenes involving unwelcome intruders, knives, blood and suicide. How Annabelle came to be is revealed. Please remember “I like your dolls” … a pretty vicious scene.
Supernatural occurrences begin in no time at all, unfortunately for mainly Mia, the recent trauma she has suffered holds no respite for her as she becomes the subject of a demonic dolls torment.
Early on the occurrences begin very low touch, with electrical appliances turning on and off, the classic rocking chair scene, TV disturbances and then something clicks, the pace and perceived danger is ramped up significantly.
Household items moving, appliances failing and smoky consequences. The film soundtrack is steady and applies tension, when the music increases, nerves begin to shred in anticipation of an on screen tragedy. A particular nervy moment for me is a sewing machine, I can’t stand them in films and never will when I see characters using them in films. The camera zooms in on the movement and the constant patter of the mechanised needle hitting the material gets louder and louder. This is a clever technique building up to the wince moment (one eye shut) however with Annabelle these scenes of high tension tend to end slightly different to how you imagine in your mind.
Annabelle is full of clever subtle scenes like this until later on in the film when the fun and games are continued and more is revealed about the malevolent force behind the doll, actually the malevolent force reveals itself.
Up until this point in the film, the focus has been on supernatural occurrences and the doll. Unfortunately when the focus of the attention shifts, the style of scare follows. The malevolent force becomes visible and appears to produce actual scares, peril and physical danger to Mia. The intention for this is to scare the audience however at times some in the audience were laughing, was it because of sheer terror? Or was it because this wasn’t as scary and felt a little stupid? Or a mixture of both?
The story continues to unfold and has heavy religious undertones reference to Jesus and his crucifixion, sacrifice, innocence, forgiveness and redemption however all the while the scares continue until the end.
Annabelle combines some old horror formula and blends in a modern twist. Annabelle is a film to see and enjoy, it’s best to not go in with high expectations, expect more of the familiar (Conjuring) supernatural scares and actual physical horror.
Would I watch it again? Yes I would, with people that haven’t seen it. Annabelle is worth a cinema trip for the sound quality alone, however if you have a decent set up at home including picture and surround sound. Annabelle is worth watching with a china doll in the same room while the back door is unlocked. Add this film to your DVD or Blu-Ray collection.