Arriving thanks to the great success of James Wan’s “The Conjuring,” “Annabelle” picks up where its predecessor began. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but think of this supernatural thriller as a companion piece versus a sequel. While not as frightening or complex as the original, “Annabelle” is an effective scare fest filled with characters set up well enough to empathize with.
A couple’s home is invaded by satanic cultists. Shortly after, they begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll. Upon further investigation, the couple discovers the cultists have summoned an entity so malicious that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now... Annabelle.
Set in the 1970s, “Annabelle” plays out just like a lost film from that era. It takes time to set up each character and give the viewer a reason to invest in their lives. You get attached to them before unholy terror and tragedy reigns down upon each one.
Another reason it plays out like a genuine treasure from the decade of “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” is its focus on the satanic panic movement of the time. The drama unfolds as the Manson Family trial is playing out on the couple’s television. It captures the paranoia of a time when cults and a serial murderer known as the Zodiac Killer was on everyone’s minds. The American public was either fixated or unhealthily fascinated with the dangers of the occult.
“Annabelle” is rated R for intense sequences of disturbing violence and terror. Blood is definitely shed onscreen and I agree that some imagery is beyond what we’ve come to expect from PG-13 movies. However, there’s no nudity to be seen.
For those walking into “Annabelle” expecting a “Chucky” movie, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The doll is only one plot device used. The demon manifests itself using several different avenues which I don’t want to spoil entirely here. The most prevalent one is that of the female cult member who “infects” the doll with her tainted blood.
One thing I really enjoyed about "Annabelle" was its confidence in waving the flag of Christianity in a mainstream movie. The writers had no problem giving mention of God and Jesus Christ throughout the film. I'm not saying that everything in the movie is theologically sound, but the spirit and intention is there. I also agree with most of the explanations as to how demons come to be attached to objects.
“Annabelle” is a worthy follow-up to “The Conjuring.” It comes as no surprise that producers would focus on the deadly doll as a means of carrying on what could become a franchise all its own. The creepy plaything almost stole the show. Just like Disney is doing with “Star Wars,” Warner Brothers could push out a spin-off film for each object in the Warrens’ occult museum every other year directed by up and coming talent while James Wan handles the “The Conjuring” sequels.
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