A prequel to last summers The Conjuring, Annabelle is directed by John R. Leonetti. Leonetti was the cinematographer of The Conjuring, and seems to have a habit of making awful sequels to mediocre movies. He was the cinematographer for Mortal Kombat, and directed Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which was subsequently annihilated by critics. He also directed The Butterfly Effect 2, a direct-to-DVD sequel to The Butterfly Effect – where John’s brother, Matthew F. Leonetti, was the cinematographer. The writer of Annabelle, Gary Dauberman, is known for such classics as Blood Monkey, In the Spider’s Web, and Swamp Devil. Knowing all of this, things make much more sense, because this movie was a complete mess.
You know when you watch a movie and the movie has a flashback and the actors in the flashback are pretty and mostly inadequate but serve their purpose for the five minutes that they’re on screen? That’s what this movie felt like. This movie felt like a short flashback that accidentally got extended to 100 minutes. I kept waiting for it to end and get to the real story, but there was no real story. It just kept going. And then it ended. But the whole movie was filler so it felt like I wasted 100 minutes on a boring and tedious movie trailer.
Saying that the actors are one-dimensional is giving them too much credit. I’m not sure the characters had a single character trait other than their occupation. Annabelle Wallis plays a pregnant woman whose character development is that she gives birth and becomes a housewife. Ward Horton plays a doctor who is married to the pregnant woman. They both like super creepy dolls yet act like these dolls are really pretty. The supporting cast includes Tony Amendola as a priest and Alfre Woodard as a person who believes in the supernatural. There is no character motivation to any decisions that are made. Things just kind of happen and you’re supposed to accept it.
This movie is not scary. The horror tactics used here include jump scares and moving a doll to different parts of the room. When a jump scare isn’t prepped correctly, you’re left with two possible outcomes – being funny or being obnoxious. Annabelle does both of these things. The demon that haunts the family in this film is a ram demon. And if that sounds funny or stupid I can assure you that it is. I’ve yet to be impressed by a supernatural horror film that has been released in the past couple of years, yet Annabelle manages to be one of the worst offenders.
I wish I could say that the ending was anticlimactic, but to receive that title it needs to build towards something in the first place. You could have placed the ending almost anywhere in the film and it would have felt just as haphazard. Much of the conflict is stolen from the Insidious franchise, but it doesn’t feel like it’s paying tribute. It just feels like a plagiarized concept that wasn’t even all that good in the first place.