Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Annabelle" Review (Guest Post)

(Guest reviewer Stevie Kopas delivers us another great review. This time it's Annabelle, the devilish doll jump-scare follow up to James Wan's 2013 hit The Conjuring. Make sure to click the jump for the full review! You can also read the original post format over on

Let’s get this out of the way:  I hate dolls.  I hate them with a passion.  Since I was a little girl I never liked puppets, marionettes, or dolls with creepy, painted faces and soulless, evil eyes.  It’s wasn’t my thing, and it still isn’t.

In fact, during my trip to Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights this year, I forced myself to go through the evil doll haunted house and oh yeah, it was fun and totally worth it.  Was I extremely creeped out and making a fool out of myself by squirming and squealing throughout the whole house?  Well of course, but so was everybody else.

With that being said, I couldn’t wait to see the film Annabelle.  The Conjuring was so amazing and when I heard that the infamous doll, Annabelle, would be getting her own movie, I was so excited that I practically jumped out of my seat with a big, fat, “NO” when I first saw the preview earlier this year.  I had such a great feeling that it would be right up my alley and scare the hell out of me.

And yes, while Annabelle had its intense moments, the movie as a whole was actually quite dull.

Let’s start by discussing that the film takes far too long to set the stage and find the appropriate pace.  We begin with an extremely familiar scene for fans of The Conjuring but then immediately we’re thrown into a happy, bubbly suburbia.  I wasn’t counting the minutes as they ticked by, but I feel like a good thirty minutes or so was spent on following our main characters, pregnant Mia and her husband John, as they attended church, chatted with the neighbors, bickered with one another, watched television, etc.  Trust me, I’m all about character building, but even with the boring character building that was there, I still didn’t care about Mia or John or anything about their lives except for the creepy doll that John bought Mia.  But anyway, after sitting through a snooze-fest of an intro, it isn’t until the young couple goes to bed that first night that things really start getting freaky.

It turns out that Mia and John’s neighbors have a missing daughter.  This “missing daughter” happened to have joined a Manson-like cult and has returned in the middle of the night to murder her parents.  As John gets up to investigate a scream that Mia heard come from the neighbor’s house, the psycho-neighbor-killing-daughter sneaks into Mia and John’s home with her cult boyfriend and attempt to kill Mia and John.  After quite the struggle and the cops busting all up in the place, we find that the daughter has committed suicide while holding Mia’s beloved doll.

We then find out that the neighbor’s daughter’s name was Annabelle Higgins.  And now we know how the doll got that name.

The majority of the scares were shown in the trailer, as is the unfortunate case with many horror films these days.  The true scare potential that Annabelle had was in the doll itself, but we never actually get anything scary from the doll other than a super ugly face and some creepy shots of the doll sitting in a rocking chair.  What I did love about this film though, was the simple fact that it was based in the 1960’s and involved Charles Manson-esque lore in the initial plot.  There are even a few scenes where Mia is watching television and the news is discussing the Manson Family.  It’s never directly stated that Annabelle Higgins and her unnamed boyfriend were part of the Manson family, but it’s nice to at least have a back story for their insanity.
The film executed the score in a way that made me feel like I was watching an old school horror film.  The music was loud, often times necessarily blaring, in certain scenes and eerily quiet in others.  It gave the film a real gritty feel and helped with the scares.

Speaking of scares, Annabelle relies heavily on the ghostly figure of the dead daughter, Annabelle herself, walking around holding the doll and tormenting Mia.  But then, and this is where I got confused, the devil shows up along with some demons…?  (Or at least it looked like the devil to me.)  So were Mia and John being tormented by soul-stealing demons, the devil, the doll, or the ghost of Annabelle Higgins?

Obviously in both this movie and in The Conjuring it’s explained to us that demons will attach themselves to objects and that they will try to steal someone’s soul.  I’m no expert on the subject matter.  I know nothing of the realm of demons, but I do know that there were a few parts that had me a bit confused as to whether or not I was watching a movie about possession, demons, ghosts, or some other supernatural force.  I don’t like when movies overdo it, and I kind of feel like Annabelle might have overdone it.  Just a bit, to where it was borderline cheesy.

Bottom line:  Did I enjoy Annabelle?  Of course!  Were there parts that freaked me out?  Oh yeah.  But overall the plotline generally fell flat and I found myself wanting more at the end.  But not in a good way, like when you finish a movie and you’re like “Ahhhh nooooo I want it to keep going!”  More like in the way of scratching my head and going “Okay but what about…”

Regardless, go check out the film, either in theaters while you still can, or when it comes around to VOD.  It’s worth the watch for sure.

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