Annabelle review

Take a great film, extract a small yet creepy aspect that plays a small part in said film, spin a whole origin tale as a cash grab and you have “Annabelle.” “The Conjuring” was a fabulous and genuinely scary film with excellent tone, grand characters, and a well-written story.  In the course of that story there was a brilliantly designed doll that exuded true creepiness.  The problem with the film “Annabelle” is that you could actually take the doll out of the film and it wouldn’t make much of a difference at all.  If you are going to make a film about a scary doll, possessed or otherwise, then the doll should be crucial to the story, not expendable.

“Annabelle” suffers in many other ways, the most unforgivable being that the film is boring.  I can usually deal with a film being bad, but boring, don’t waste my time.  There are long stretches of time where nothing worthwhile happens.  In a well-crafted horror film these pauses are meant to lull you into complacency so that when great timing is used it elicits maximum fear from well placed and excellently used scares.  Instead, “Annabelle” wastes a great premise and relies on terribly timed “scares,” those same scares are wretchedly crafted, and happen to boring characters.

Without spoiling anything, one terribly crafted scare has a character approaching a window.  Suddenly the curtain blows wildly into the character’s face, then before the scene can even settle something scuttles across the screen.  Not only is the timing atrocious, but the set-up is abysmal.  The audience is never given time to process either event fully therefore both events are wasted.  I remember a director once commented that the reason comedies aren’t wall-to-wall jokes is that audiences need time to recover in order fully appreciate and comprehend the following jokes, otherwise great jokes fall flat with terrible timing.  Anything that would have been successful is brutally wasted through poor direction.

Not only are moments of fear wasted, but actors are as well.  Alfre Woodard has a questionable role in this film, and one I wonder why she took.  Not only does it end up being exceptionally stereotypical in the long run, but the character could almost be cut from the film without any significant impact save for a few key scenes.  Even in those scenes it feels like she is just phoning her performance in, which is just as tragic as the film being boring.

Boring film, disinterested actors, and shoddily written characters that give us nothing to latch onto or even care about; this is all a huge shame because there are some decent events that should give us some empathy for them and significant backstory for Annabelle the doll.  Instead like everything else it is all an epic waste.

The frustration I felt watching this film was matched only by my boredom.  I had to actively resist the urge to turn the film off, which I absolutely hate to do.  What could have been a dynamite creepy doll story ended up being a film where the doll was the most expendable story component and the least scary element.  Not a smart storytelling choice when this is supposed to be the focus of your story.   Barren characters, weak story, poorly-timed scares and even shoddy jump scares (which are a terrible horror film’s fallback) all combine to make “Annabelle” a chore to watch instead of a joy like “The Conjuring,” which inspired it.  Avoid “Annabelle” not because it’s too scary, but because it’s the exact opposite.

 

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