Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for horror violence and terror
Running time: 109 minutes
Production Company: New Line Cinema / Atomic Monster
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
“Annabelle: Creation” is the fourth film in a horror franchise that previously featured The Conjuring 1 and 2 as well as Annabelle. Because this prequel is set in 1952, well before the events which transpired in the others, one need not be familiar with those pictures to thoroughly enjoy this one, provided you like having the bejesus scared out of you.
The stand-alone screamfest trades in all the staples of your generic haunted house adventure, ranging from a spooky disembodied voice singing a cappella, to involuntary levitation, to a victim leaving nail marks in the floor as she’s dragged down a darkened hall by a mysterious force. The movie was directed by David F. Sandberg, the Swedish wunderkind who made an impressive debut just last year with the low-budget thriller “Lights Out.”
As the film unfolds, we find dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his reclusive, bed-ridden wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), passing their days in a ramshackle, Victorian mansion sitting on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere. They’re ostensibly still shaken by the loss of their daughter Bee (Samara Lee) who was hit by a car over a decade ago.
That might explain why the inconsolable couple has decided to share their humble abode with a half-dozen orphans. The homeless girls are being chaperoned by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), a God-fearing guardian grateful to get a roof over their heads.
The waifs are pretty much given free rein of the place, except for a direct order from Mr. Mullins to steer clear of Bee’s bedroom. But that injunction proves too tempting for Janice (Talitha Bateman), a curious kid suffering from polio.
Of course, she ventures inside and unwittingly unleashes a host of demonic forces doing the bidding of Annabelle, a doll Samuel had originally made for his dearly-departed daughter. It isn’t long thereafter that all hell begins to breaks loose.
Director Sandberg proves particularly adept at ratcheting up the tension. In fact, the spine-tingling flick delivers innumerable heart-stopping moments along the way, though they come more from jolting sounds and abrupt edits than from investment in the simplistically-drawn characters.
Ask if they’ll sell you a ticket for half a seat, since you’ll never bother to sit back during this edge-of-your-seat thriller.”