In the entire ’The Conjuring’ series, ‘ Annabelle : Creation’ may well be the most sadistic. This prequel, which describes the origin of the possessed Annabelle doll is set in 1943, before the discovery of the polio vaccine in the 1950s. An orphanage has lost their shelter and finds temporary housing in an antique rural home. Six orphan girls and their caretaker nun relocate to this creepy looking house. One of the girls is afflicted with polio, has a leg strapped and walks with a crutch. It is she that the demon selects to torture and possess. The evil spirit first confines her to a wheelchair via an ‘accident’, then unseats her from it and drags her viciously across the home and estate until she is senseless and possessed by him.
At the beginning of the film, little Janice (Talitha Bateman) is sad because she knows she is never going to be able to walk normally. She is, however, constantly reassured by the nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), that if she has faith, God will help her recover from the crippling effects of polio. It is something she knows to be untrue, but it keeps her spirits up. Until the devil, being who he is, literally mauls her. The movie is graphic in the description.
Which makes this movie more cruel than it is scary. The only man in the movie is an old doll maker called Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia), who originally hand crafted the porcelain doll, named after his late daughter Annabelle, because ever since he and his wife lost their only child in an accident, they believed that the spirit of their dead daughter could inhabit it. It turned out to be an old familiar trick of the devil. Because that is how, apparently, he enters human habitation to possess souls for his keeping.
The other nine characters in the film are female, and this is a deliberate strategy by the makers, who know that women are the primary audience for the series. Girls hiding from the devil, a nun being forced to acknowledge that Jesus and the cross will not protect her wards from the demon in the doll, shrieking girls running from one haunted nook to another in an eerie looking house; this is the kind of stuff that brings them streaming into the theatre, accompanied by eager boyfriends to hold their hands as they holler in empathy.
Compared to the first ‘Annabelle’, which made efforts to create character and situation before unleashing the horror, this prequel to that movie is remarkably quick to exploit the exploitative genre it is a part of. Hardly are the orphans settled in to their new home, when strange sounds are heard at night, locks are mysteriously unopened, and the doll is released from its prison, to wreck havoc. Even daytime brings no relief, with the demon unconstrained by its normal inhibitors.
If you are in the movie for the purpose of being scared out of your wits from the word ‘go’, ‘Annabelle: Creation’ is value for money. But if you are looking for a good story and a steady build up to horror, this film will disappoint.