The Conjuring worked due to a variety of elements not usually seen in horror films. Mainly, cast members were talented and made the audience believe they actually felt terror.  And when I say “audience”, I mean the unusual number of seats filled for a horror film, not just your usual line of WalMart shoppers who attend horror films just to talk out loud during the movie and tell the characters what to do.  The Conjuring, which starred Oscar nominees Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor along with Patrick Wilson and Ron Livingston, was directed by James Wan.  Desperate to milk the cow a little more, the prequel, Annabelle, which focuses on the doll barely featured in The Conjuring, stars no one significant, except Woodard, and is helmed from the un-acclaimed director of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2.

 Following the murder of their neighbors and the suicide of the neighbors’ satanic daughter, Mia (Wallis) and John (Horton) begin noticing unexplained phenomena in their Santa Monica home.  Unable to see past the events that occurred in their house, they move to Pasadena to start fresh.  However, the unexplained happenings follow them, and the mysterious porcelain doll moves around the house.  Even when they try to throw the doll away, it reappears.  The soul of the girl from the occult appears to be in the doll and is a demon, now after the souls of Mia and her newborn daughter.

 The film plays it pretty safe and standard as far as stereotypical horror films go.  It uses the predictable bump-in-the-night scares, loud noises, and sharp edits to make the easily fooled jump.  The acting is a far cry from The Conjuring; even Woodard can’t inject reliability into the script.  The doll certainly gets its fare share of screen time, but as the audience waits for the doll to move or blink, it never happens; we only see still shots of the creepy face in varying positions.  What does move is the dark, foul-faced demon that chases Mia all over the place.    Annabelle doesn’t earn any horrifying moments; it simply induces them with loud noises or quick scares.  The film does mention the Warren family on which The Conjuring is based, with two real-life investigators who dealt with unexplained phenomena.  It isn’t the lazy filmmaking we might see in Saw or the Paranormal series, but it’s also nothing to write home about either.  The makers of Annabelle understand that the massive droves who attended Conjuring won’t be coming out for this one, and they never attempt to make this film more than what it is:  just a silly scary movie for teens who like pretending they are scared.

 Final Thought – Desperate prequel to The Conjuring with little to no talent involved.

 Grade C

By: Dustin Chase