When it comes to movies, there is nothing worse than being middle of the road. The merits of a good film are obvious, but even bad films can be fun to watch- especially with a group of people who are all shouting at the screen trying to figure out what the heck is going on. But a film that sits at .500 has very few redeeming qualities; were it just a little better or even a little worse, it would be more enjoyable.
Annabelle: Creation sits right in this middle ground for an experience, that while fairly well put together, is wholly unremarkable and predictable.
Modern horror films are in a bit of a funk. Many of them operate using the same tropes and clichés that have been used ad nauseam for more than a decade. Occasionally a more interesting one comes out that attempts to buck the trend and present a more cerebral approach that is far less dependent on the usual formula (Check out It Comes at Night for a recent example). Unfortunately, Annabelle: Creation falls with the former group.
If you have seen any mainstream horror film in the past decade, then you know exactly how this film is going to operate. It relies heavily on jump scares to keep the audience on edge rather than creating a more genuine sense of tension or dread. In the middle of a scene the score will completely go out and there will be almost complete silence which signals a great big signal that there is a jump scare coming. Sprinkle in some fake outs, and string this out to 1 and a half ours, and you’ve got yourself a lousy horror film.
For anyone out there that is unfamiliar with this film or its successor, Annabelle, these films revolve around an evil doll that kills people for some reason. At least I assume that is what the first one is about, I have not seen it, and this one has not exactly encouraged me to go check it out. Apparently these are a part of, “The Conjuring Universe,” which, if they are all of this film’s quality, I will take a pass on.
Annabelle: Creation is surprisingly interesting until that reasoning behind the killer doll is revealed, at which point I promptly checked out and simply waited for the film to end. There are fewer jump scares in the final sequence as the film tries to create a greater sense of tension and dread, but once the mystery of the doll was gone, the events that followed simply didn’t feel compelling.
To the film’s credit, it was surprisingly well made. There is some nice camera work outside of the mandatory horror shots – person in focus is at the side of the frame looking at whatever while something moves around in the blurry background; we’ve all seen these approximately 1 billion times. There are some show-offy long takes that looked good in spite of not providing much, and every aspect of the film was properly set up so that there was never any anxious shouting at the screen wondering what the heck was happening and why it was happening.
Unfortunately, that may have worked to the film’s detriment. Much of the film was very predictable. Every obstacle and challenge was easy to see coming, in part because they were set up, and in part because this film simply follows the modern horror movie checklist. Most of the twists and turns are telegraphed; even the fake out jump scares are predictable. Ultimately this film is formulaic. Outside of some of the nifty camera work, it feels like a film that was churned out of an assembly line alongside dozens of other dull horror films. It brings nothing new to the table, and will ultimately blend into the wash of other unremarkable horror films that come out each and every year.