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Annabelle: Creation

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A couple lost their young daughter in a tragic accident. Years later they decide to invite a nun and a group of orphaned girls to live with them after their orphanage closed down. An evil trapped within the house awakens and now it’s after the soul of one of the girls. The strange supernatural occurrences get worse with each passing day, threatening the lives of all who live in the house. It is up to the girls to try and defeat what could be the Devil himself.

After the less than well received Annabelle prequel of 2014, New Line Cinema decided to attempt a prequel to the prequel. They brought on Gary Dauberman, who also wrote the first Annabelle film, and director David F. Sandberg of Lights Out fame. These two manage to create a film worthy of being apart of The Conjuring universe. Bringing Sandberg in to direct was a great decision by the production company. Even though Annabelle: Creation is only his second feature length film, Sandberg has proven that he is a skilled horror storyteller who knows how to scare audiences. He expertly uses light and shadows to his advantage to not only bring exciting jump scares, but he also relies heavily on creating an unsettling atmosphere with more subtle spine-chilling scares. He also sets up scares in a very long, drawn out way that builds anticipation. You keep expecting the scare to come, but then it doesn’t until you are caught off guard again. Sandberg has already improved his skills since Lights Out, his first feature film, so I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

Bringing Dauderman on to write again was probably the best decision for this film. He has a clear understanding of the mythology created both in The Conjuring and in Annabelle. One of my biggest concerns going into Annabelle: Creation was how they were going to connect it to the first Annabelle film. I was almost expecting them to do what the latest Resident Evil film did and create an entirely new origin story, ignoring the previous film. Dauberman connects the two films in such a seamless manner. It is even more flawless than I could have imagined. On top of that, Dauberman creates a cast of compelling characters, each with their own fears that “Annabelle” tries to exploit. You care about each character, especially young Janice, who is recovering from polio. Caring about the characters makes the demonic presence all the more terrifying.

Having compelling characters would mean nothing if not for the actors who play them. While there are many characters, all of whom are important to the plot, it seems that there are two main characters of this film. Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave, The Hive) plays Janice. Janice is a young orphan who is recovering from polio and has to use a crutch to get around. She suffers the most from the demon since she is the weak link of the orphan girls. Bateman is a new young talent and she absolutely shines in this role. From innocent girl trying to be strong for her friend to possessed by evil, Bateman shows range in her performance and I find myself completely enthralled by her. Lulu Wilson (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Deliver Us From Evil) also gives a stunning performance as Janice’s best friend, Linda. While Wilson excels in this role, I found her to be a bit of a distraction. She had just been in Ouija: Origin of Evil last year, and not only was this another horror prequel but it was set in a similar time (although I think chronologically Annabelle: Creation is earlier). Wilson is great as Linda, but I can’t stop thinking of her as Doris, especially since that film isn’t even a year old. The entire cast does a great job, making each character enjoyable to watch.

In keeping with other films in The Conjuring universe, Annabelle: Creation relies almost entirely on practical effects. Primarily the effects are to make the deceased daughter look unsettling. There is one scene where the makeup done on the girl goes a bit over the top, combined with her line of dialogue, to make it much more funny than scary. Aside from that, the effects are very well done, especially with the demon. While the demon is kept mostly in the shadow, which makes it even more disturbing, they keep its look simple and iconic. Often times what you don’t see is even more terrifying than what you can see, and Annabelle: Creation is a perfect example of that.

I went into Annabelle: Creation somewhat guarded and with low expectations. I came out of the theater with a partially numb arm from crouching awkwardly in fear. Annabelle: Creation is the most frightening film of 2017, so far, and it renews my faith in The Conjuring spin-off films. There are a couple scares that come across more funny than frightening, and I found the casting of Wilson to be rather distracting, but overall I am very pleased with this film. It is exceptionally well acted, has great scares, and perfectly connects to the films that came before it. Annabelle: Creation truly exceeds my expectations. Be sure to keep an eye out for a couple fun Easter eggs in this film, as well as a mid and post credit scene that you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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The Boy (2016)

Greta (Lauren Cohan) is an American nanny looking for a job in the English countryside. When she arrives at her new job she is shocked to find that the “boy” she is supposed to care for is actually a doll. Even more bizarre is that the doll was made to look like the couple’s deceased son, Brahms, and they treat the doll as if it was their son. The parents strongly urge Greta to follow Brahms’ rules while they are away. When she doesn’t follow the rules, strange things begin to happen. Is Greta losing her mind living all alone in the secluded house, or is the doll actually alive?

I am so pleased to be able to tell you that I enjoyed this film. Going into the theater I was expecting this film to be dull and lacking in any substance. One of my favorite aspects of this film is that the trailer made you think the plot would go in a different direction than it actually did. This may have been a disappointment to some simply because the film was a bit slower than the trailer made it appear, with the exception of the climax. I agree that the film definitely moves at a leisurely pace, but what the film lacks in speed and excitement it makes up for in ambiance. It creates a very unsettling, creepy feel. There were times where it was unconformable to watch the odd relationship between the parents and doll Brahms, and even more uncomfortable to watch that relationship develop between Greta and doll Brahms.

This film also exceeded my expectations by having an amazing twist. It was exciting, made sense with everything that led up to the climax, and I did not even remotely see it coming. Even as the twist was being revealed it took me a second for it to click in my brain. Not only was the twist an unexpected one, but it made everything that you had just watched even more creepy and disturbing than you thought possible. Unfortunately, there is a down side to this exciting twist. While I thought it worked very well and added a ton of excitement to what could have been a slightly dull plot, it also felt like the twist was a complete rip off of another horror film that came out in 2014. I don’t want to say what that film is to avoid spoiling the end of this film (or the 2014 film for those who haven’t seen it yet). I’ll just say that, while the motivations for the entities are different in the two films, the general idea is the same. I’m going to give the filmmakers of The Boy the benefit of the doubt and say it is just a coincidence, especially since the 2014 film was a much smaller production that many people probably didn’t see.

The two leads did an excellent job. Many of us have seen Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead, Chuck) in several TV shows, primarily in a supporting role. While she has always been amazingly talented in those roles, she has never had the opportunity to really shine as the main character in a large production film. It was great to finally see her as a leading lady. Cohan held her own and proved that she can carry a film along in the main character. Rupert Evans (The Canal, Hellboy) was as charming as ever playing the lovable grocery boy, Malcolm.

The Boy was much more successful than I imagined it could be. There were so many elements that worked in its favor such as the acting and an interesting plot line. The marketing also worked in this film’s favor by not revealing too much of the story, which happens all too often these days. The twist was one of the best parts of the film, but it also is one of the reasons I had to dock a bit from the score. It was just too similar to the 2014 horror film I mentioned earlier to ignore. Looking past that, The Boy was still a creepy horror film that will leave you feeling quite disturbed about what you witnessed.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10