Lacking both depth and plot originality, “Annabelle” is a disappointment

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Horror movies have not been the greatest as of late. But they are still a cash cow because they are cheap to make and it is easy to make a profit from them. So, when one does well, you can expect several more to follow. And, although they might suck, it does not stop audiences from lining up on Friday nights for utter disappointment.

“Annabelle” is a supernatural horror film directed by John R. Leonetti. The story of the Annabelle doll started as a brief opening sequence to James Wan’s “The Conjuring.” New Line Cinema then decided to give the story a bigger platform as a spin-off following the success of Wan’s film. It tells the tale of Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton), the previous owners of Annabelle who become plagued by supernatural occurrences after their home is invaded by satanic cultists. The film’s lack of a compelling story, an original scare factor and decent acting make the film a tedious viewing.

The plot does nothing to reinvent the wheel. It’s your typical story about a family being terrorized by some malevolent being who wants someone’s soul. The characters lack personality because they are archetypes you have seen before. Mia is the lonely housewife being plagued by the supernatural. John is the skeptical husband. Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) is the empathetic individual who believes Mia because of a similar experience. Father Perez is the priest that helps the family when things get bad. Even the origins of titular character Annabelle are lazy and a blatant ripoff.

Because the characters are cardboard cutouts, it’s hard for the audience to care. Mia and John are the perfect American family with bland personalities, making it hard for the audience to connect. Star Wallis and co-star Horton only cement this disconnect with their cringe-worthy performances.

Leonetti’s directing also takes the audience off the edge of their seat. The film does not feel like a horror movie — most of the “scary” parts happen in the day — which could have been great, had it been used effectively. The idea that midnight is the “witching hour” is something that lends to the atmosphere and it’s baffling that he chose to avoid it for most of the film.

Poor framing and overuse of handheld wide shots make it easy to predict jump scares and take the audience out of the story. The film lacks the up-close and personal look of following a character down a long dark hall. Sequences like Mia running up a flight of stairs, with lights flashing and a shaky camera make the scene unwatchable. And Leonetti’s pacing makes the film a litany of false alarms and jump scares.

Overall, if you were hoping for the same spark that you had once seen while watching Wan’s “The Conjuring,” don’t hold your breath. “Annabelle” is a lesser version of not only its predecessor but every supernatural horror film before it. And the fact of the matter is, Wan managed to make the story of “Annabelle” more interesting in his 10-minute opening sequence than this film could have done in its total 98-minute run time.

Rating: 1 star

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