Annabelle

Movie Review #886

ABOUT AS SELF-AWARE AS A COMEDY, AND IT’S ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL.

★½
By Alexander Diminiano

annabelle

Premiered September 29, 2014 (Hollywood, California)
Released October 3, 2014 (nationwide)
Horror
Rated R (contains disturbing content, violence)
98 minutes

I hate to say it, but I was the annoying moviegoer this time. Sorry. I did everything I could to lighten the mood when I was watching “Annabelle”. It’s hard not to treat it as a comedy, and when it wasn’t funny enough, I made fun of it myself. Soundtrack gets so quiet after a giant musical crescendo, and I’m prompted to softly sing the first two lines of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”. Camera focuses on blood dripping into the eye of the titular doll, and I comment, “That’s not healthy, her eyes are, quite literally, bloodshot!” Heroine screams “Who are you!?!” at the demon-possessed Annabelle doll, I start humming the chorus of “Who Are You” by The Who.

Actually, Annabelle may not have been possessed by demons at that point of the movie. There’s no explanation as to whether she’s possessed the whole movie, and if not, when she becomes possessed. In fact, the movie lacks a lot of explanation for a movie that has been billed as a prequel to last year’s “The Conjuring”. Aren’t prequels supposed to explain what we didn’t understand the first time around? Isn’t the story supposed to dig deeper, or am I for some reason supposed to be thankful that there is a story?

“Annabelle” is as self-aware as a comedy, and at the same time, I’m not sure it even realizes how ironic its own exposition is. The film is set in the 1960s, and as a period piece, it brings a rather intriguing story about cults and satanic rituals. (Even if cults weren’t as big in ’60s counterculture as “Annabelle” wants you to believe.) In the first few scenes of the movie, the heroine is seen watching news coverage of the Manson Family. Which is interesting simply because the whole movie steals from “Rosemary’s Baby” more than any horror movie.

If you watch horror movies for the sake of laughter, you might find “Annabelle” entertaining enough. Otherwise, the only scare you’ll likely get is that you paid ten bucks for a movie that didn’t manage to scare up a single muscle. I laughed at “Annabelle” as much as I laugh at some comedies and more than I laugh at others. When the movie screws up, it screws up royally. The music sounds like selections from Adagio for Strings and Ride of the Valkyries, not movie music. (Granted, those two worked as movie music in “The Elephant Man” and “Apocalypse Now”, respectively, but those weren’t 21st century horror movies.) The best music here happens to be those ’60s tunes you hear on the LP player before it starts flicking on and off on its own. If those tunes from The Association and The Spiral Starecase hadn’t started cutting out because of those demons, I could’ve jammed for hours.

“Annabelle” tells an interesting story, but it’s very predictable. To ask, “How easy is it to guess what’ll happen next?”, is pretty much the same as to ask, “If I have a track listing sitting right in front of my face, and I’m staring right at it, how easy is it to guess the progression of the songs on the album?” Couple this with a miscast assortment of independent actors that I’ve never heard of, a copycat direction from John R. Leonetti, and a script so weak that it’s all too obvious why James Wan didn’t want to direct this. Supposedly, it’s a prequel to “The Conjuring”, but I detect no such genius.

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