Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Starring: Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis & Alfre Woodard
Running time: 98 min
IF Adam Sandler appears in three or more of your top ten films list, then this flick is probably not one for you. I scare easily and once had to watch Free Willy after seeing Interview with a Vampire to calm my frayed nerves.
Set in 1970s California, the movie kicks off with a double murder by members of a Satanic cult who then try to multiply the number by attacking neighbours Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her nauseatingly devoted, med school student, all-American husband John (Ward Horton). Having survived the attack it seems the Satanists have left more than a few bruises and a stab wound behind. Enter Annabelle, a vintage doll which, having been bled on by one of Satan’s crew, has become possessed by some entity wishing to enter the soul of the happy couple’s new born daughter, Mia.
A change of address brings no change to the couple’s luck. Intriguing up to now but 20 minutes into the 98 minute running time and even self-confessed scaredy cats like myself are starting to bore with the obvious plot. The film has only grossed $18.5m in its opening week in the States; that figure alone should tell you something.
There’s the usual antics, doors opening, Annabelle moving, rocking chairs a-rocking, the radio and TV turning themselves off and on and a ghoulish spectre moving silently in the back of screens or seen peering over the baby’s cot while she sleeps happily. To say this film is influenced by some of the best horrors of all time is the understatement of the year. The ghoul in the background of Insidious, the friendly and devout local Priest (Tony Amendola) straight out of The Exorcist to name just two. It’s as if director, John R Leonetti (The Conjuring, Insidious) and screenplay writer, Gary Dauberman have sat down with the blueprint of how to make a good horror flick and followed it to the tee. Yes, there’s chills – I’ve always been suspicious of antique dolls – and two major jumps leaving people gasping and hairs bristling for a few minutes after but not enough to keep the true horror fan on the edge of their seat for the full running time.
There’s also two major inclusions of two minor subplots which are never really developed or brought to any satisfactory conclusions: the repetitive thumping from the upstairs neighbour, even though Mia and John live on the top floor? And the prophetic doodlings of a neighbour’s kid which again is never explored. One effective subplot is that of friendly bookshop keeper Evelyn (Alfred Woodward), which proves to be central the piece’s easily foreseen ending. Safe enough to say everything kind of works out okay in the end.
The only saving grace to this movie is the acting and of course cinematography, but with Halloween coming up and a bit of heavy marketing – they’re actually bringing the doll from the film around previews all over the UK – this film will probably, against all odds, do ok at the box office. But if you really want frightened best sit alone in a darkened room and watch X-Factor on catch-up.
Two out of Five Nerds