Review by lou.
Annabelle: Creation services more than it apologizes for the terrible mistakes committed by its forgettable, vapid predecessor.
Just as you’d expect, David F. Sandberg’s takeover is a blessing and a delightful surprise wrapped as one fascinating package that caters to horror fans. His cleverness comes into play in the film’s execution, and just when you think that he’s not too effective of a director, he starts bringing out all of the tricks in his bag. At first, he follows a structure that actually makes you feel like you’re watching another full-fledged Conjuring movie minus The Warrens. This goes on for at least 30 minutes into the film, up until it gets bothersome more and more as there’s literally nothing much going on with the exception of a strong start.
He tries to emulate James Wan’s style to pull us into all this – using slow pacing for rather shriek-worthy payoffs. At a certain point, his own ingenuity really starts to seep in, and we get gradually pleased with what he has to show. What he utilized to a remarkable effect in last year’s ‘Lights Out’ appears to intimidate our senses once again, appearing in a bigger and much terrifying form. He demonstrates so attractively that, he has a way in dealing with the darkness and what goes around in it. A sense of helplessness to the situations that befall its characters loom in the background, and it gives the film an overall authenticity that taps into our fears. With that, the titular doll, whose glare is creepy enough, is given much to do other than just stand in the corner with eyes so black and blank. It might sound like a bit of feat (and it is), but Sandberg finds ways to make Annabelle seem more expressive and frightening than ever through set pieces that are tremendous yet small in look and feel.
Yes, style still does get in the way of substance, yet he finds a way to get those two to meet, and so, a joyfully terrifying good time at the cinema gets created in the process. The usage of space, to make you feel trapped in the same place as its characters adds suspense to the circumstances enveloping the horror, and adding layers to that, are the lighting and smooth camera movement that helps dramatize the look of the film that will freak you out. It’s a small detail, but it is what defines the movie entire as it also goes for practicality that meets, if not, succeeds genre standards. Moving away from the gorgeous technicalities, we join in on a small cast – a lot which are unknown. Nonetheless, they all did an excellent job, with Lulu Wilson who also starred in yet another surprise horror flick from last year, becoming the stand-out performance. If storytelling concerns you, that you might be thinking that, the film as a whole isn’t as smart as it sounds, then you’d might want to re-think that at least for a bit.
Annabelle: Creation is undoubtedly at its best when it tries to fulfill its job in delivering old-school scares, and not focusing much on its plot, but that doesn’t mean that its narrative is totally weak per se. In actuality, it is strongly-knitted, and there’s even a good amount of heart that is built between two child characters, which eventually gets shattered by a grim presence over time. The emotions that they convey aren’t clearly present right there, but again, even the film admits that it’s not too important, and it also doesn’t even pass as a shameless ignorance to the essentials of storytelling in our eyes either.
What it prioritizes is tying the threads to other movies in the ‘Conjuring’-verse, and bringing back real horror in ways that is as pure and accessible as it could get. A cheap, lame effort it may sound like on paper, but this works to an almost shocking degree especially during the film’s tail end that again, spits at the tepid craft of the first. Rarely do we ever get a truly enjoyable, bang-for-your-buck mainstream horror film, and Annabelle: Creation is part of that small pool that needs to be filled every once in a while. David F. Sandberg has shown nothing but promise even with only two films in his slate, so maybe, asking for more isn’t too much. He could be the next “small” big thing in modern horror anyway. That is, if he tries to better himself film after film.
Annabelle: Creation will be holding sneak previews on August 14 (Mon) & 15 (Tue), and will have its regular theatrical run in Philippine cinemas on August 23. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.