“Annabelle: Creation” is a prequel to “Annabelle,” which itself was a prequel to “The Conjuring.” When considering the poor track record of sequels or prequels to horror films, there’s no way “Annabelle: Creation” should’ve been any good, that’s why it was surprising to see the movie turn out to be rather enjoyable.
The film takes place decades ago and follows the story of an orphanage that’s relocating to a house out in the country owned by a couple. The couple, Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther (Miranda Otto), lost their daughter in a car accident a few years a before the start of the movie, but have opened their home to allow the orphanage girls to stay at the house.
While there are numerous orphan characters featured in “Creation,” the film focuses specifically on two, Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson). The two are close friends and also happen to be the first to discover some paranormal activity at their new home.
Does “Annabelle: Creation” have some obvious jump scares and familiar horror clichés? Absolutely. Does it still work? Yep. It comes down to execution, and director David Sandberg really makes things work here. With the clichés, for example, Sandberg doesn’t overuse jump scares and adds a lot of fun set pieces to make the haunted house tropes creepier, creating a nice atmosphere.
Some of these include an old rickety stairs chair lift, hidden crawl spaces and a dumbwaiter. They even used a freaky scarecrow prop effectively. On top of this, the film does great work with the Annabelle doll itself, having it make slight movements in the background that only the audience, not the characters, are aware of.
As for the story, again, it’s pretty familiar stuff here. There’s the ghostly Annabelle doll that begins haunting one of the characters and none of the other individuals are convinced right away that something paranormal is happening.
What bolsters the fairly generic story here is the endearing main characters Janice and Linda. The movie spends a good amount of time introducing the two, who are likable and are given solid performances. Both Bateman and Wilson do really heartfelt, realistic work here, making for believable characters that the audience can really invest in. This isn’t a horror where it’s just random people that you don’t care about getting picked off, these are the type of characters you root for and want to see the best for.
Stephanie Sigman is also good as Sister Charlotte, who looks after the orphans. Her character is of course reluctant to believe stories of ghostly hauntings but she’s not written to be completely oblivious. Sigman balances this well, being both skeptical of the girls’ tales while also being somewhat open minded to what they have to say.
LaPaglia is also pretty good here, giving plenty of stoicism to his character who’s still somewhat in a stage of mourning.
“Creation” was much better than expected. The characters were endearing, the acting is solid and the filmmakers managed to use some classic haunted house ideas to make for a fairly freaky atmosphere. The story is a bit generic, but that can be forgiven. As a fun horror picture, this works, 3.5 out of 5.