THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Own Annabelle on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD on January 20th
Horror tends to be very cyclical. After The Ring, Asian-influenced horror movies were all the rage for a while. Then Saw hit, and torture-themed stories took over. More recently, the success of Insidious and The Conjuring has brought old-fashioned paranormal stories back into vogue. The latter even inspired a prequel, Annabelle, which tracks the origin of the possessed doll that played a key role in that film. However, the spinoff lacks The Conjuring's punch by a wide margin.
In a really amusing bit of coincidence, the lead actress here is named Annabelle Wallis. She plays Mia Form, a woman pregnant with her first child. Her husband John (Ward Horton) gives her a rare doll she has long been hoping to add to her collection. Not long afterward, satanic cult members break into their home. One of them, a female, dies while holding the doll. Her murderous spirit inhabits the thing, and all sorts of freaky stuff begins occurring. Mia and John try to get rid of Annabelle, but it has a way of returning to them. Eventually, they turn to a bookstore owner named Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) for help.
I won't say that Annabelle is a bad movie. It's professionally made, looks great, and has respectable performances from Wallis and Horton. The issue with it is that writer Gary Dauberman and director John R. Leonetti bring nothing new to the table. These paranormal chillers all use variations on the same things: creepy music snippets coming from a record player, doors that slam themselves, flickering lights, objects that move of their own free will, etc. After sitting through five Paranormal Activity movies, two Insidious pictures, The Possession, The Conjuring, and several others, the impact of these elements is pretty much gone - for me, at least. Watching Annabelle is like watching a movie you've seen a dozen times before, just with different actors and slight variations on the same scare tactics.
One or two moments scattered throughout aren't bad. A sequence in an elevator that won't take Mia out of the apartment building basement where a demon waits for her is clever. Mostly, though, it's all old hat. The plot follows a predictable path, with the couple seeking guidance from a priest. (Ever notice that people in these movies are almost always Catholic?) And, of course, since Annabelle pops up in The Conjuring, the suspense of whether or not she'll ever be rid of the thing possessing her is nil.
Viewers who are not yet exhausted by the routine paranormal tropes may well enjoy Annabelle. Those who are – and I count myself among their legion – will be more likely to experience impatience with a film that dutifully trots them out for one more go-round.
( 1/2 out of four)
Annabelle will be released on Blu-Ray combo pack, DVD, and Digital HD on January 20.
The Blu-Ray contains four short behind-the-scenes featurettes: “The Curse of Annabelle,” Bloody Tears of Possession,” “Dolls of the Demon,” and “A Demonic Process.” The subjects covered in them range from the design of the doll, to the staging of the home invasion sequence, to bizarre things that happened on-set during filming.
There are also eight deleted scenes, totaling 21 minutes. Of most note is the inclusion of a character, the couple's landlord, who was completely excised from the final cut.
An UltraViolet copy of Annabelle is included in the pack.
Annabelle is rated R for intense sequences of disturbing violence and terror. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.
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