There is just about a phobia for anything that exists in the world. There's a phobia of clowns: Coulrophobia . There's a phobia of dolls: Pediophobia . There's even a phobia of wind: Ancraophobia. Annabelle tries to take us through the familiar motions and expects a different outcome. Albert Einstein said that 'insanity' is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. When you consider this spin-off/prequel to The Conjuring, you realize how well that definition fits, which makes it the scariest characteristic of the entire film.
We were introduced to Annabelle about a year ago. We know she is a conduit of evil, but the details were very vague. Jon (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis) are you typical, church-going, suburban couple. They are expecting a child soon (they don't know the sea for some reason). Mia is an avid doll collector and she displays her collection around the baby's future room, so it's a good thing the baby turns out to be a girl.
Anyway, Jon finds a rare doll that Mia needed to complete her collection, which of course is the beginning of the end. It also doesn't help that Annabelle, the estranged daughter of the next door neighbors, left her cult to murder her parents and then murder Jon and Mia. She settles for killing herself to summon a demon into the doll, and the demon is hungry for a soul. The family is going to need all the help they can get, and that includes Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and spiritualist Evelyn (Alfre Woodard). Even then, sometimes things are just a lost cause to begin with.
The problem with the film is how unremarkably dull it is. Annabelle is not necessarily done badly, but it seems like there was so little creativity and effort put into trying to make it stand out. The film is a Frankenstein's monster of borrowed and overdone elements from horror films involving killer dolls and demonic possession, all the way to the most recent use of a painted person as a demon (as can be seen in Insidious).
The concept behind The Conjuring was also nowhere near unique, but it succeeded because of how well it used the borrow elements to create a nostalgic feeling from the heyday of horror films. It also didn't hurt that the film had a phenomenal cast to take us through the motions and deliver more than a few decent scares. Tony Amendola and Alfre Woodard could only carry Annabelle so far.
As far as prequels go, Annabelle would be considered a Star Wars quality prequel. Ultimately, it is a forgettable (and sometimes laughable) vestigial appendage that attempts to add greater depth to the existing story. Instead it comes off as a unoriginal, mediocre mess that not only fails to scare, but it also fails to entertain. The only good thing with prequels is that they can often be overlooked, and their existence can be forgotten. For now, let's leave Annabelle on her shelf and never play with her again.
RATING: ★★★(3/10 stars)