“In this house. I feel a different kind of presence…an evil one. It’s coming after me because I’m the weakest,” says Janice (Talitha Bateman) to Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) after being violently attacked by a demonic spirit who wants her soul in the new installment of The Conjuring film franchise, Annabelle: Creation.
12 years after the tragic death of their young daughter, Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther Mullins (Miranda Otto) open up their home to the local church. They agree to take in several girls from the recently shut down orphanage as well as the nun in charge, Sister Charlotte. At first, the girls are extremely excited to live in a big house with plenty of rooms to explore. Even little Janice, who wears a brace and uses a cane after surviving polio, is hopeful about their new living conditions. It’s not long, however, before Janice discovers the locked room which is off-limits to the girls.
Curiosity gets the better of her (remember what curiosity did to the cat) and she enters the room late one night to discover the infamous doll, Annabelle, that’s already possessed by a demonic spirit. The evil entity inside the doll targets Janice and begins to terrorize her.
Directed effectively by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out), Annabelle: Creation is an eerie, spine-tingling horror film you’ll watch through the spaces between your fingers while squirming in your seat in fear. It’s a spooky haunted house film with a creepy doll at the center of all its horrors. Sandberg uses the old-school method of filmmaking with light, shadow, music, and one damn disturbing, moving-on-its-own doll to build tension and create an overall ominous feeling.
The young actresses playing the orphan girls are all solid in their roles, but there are two stand-out performances worth noting among the younger cast. Talitha Bateman as Janice, the main target of the demonic spirit, and her best friend, Linda (Lulu Wilson), who tries her hardest to look out for and protect Janice and ultimately becomes the demon’s secondary target, are terrific and deserve special mentions. Both young actresses perfectly convey the curiosity and fear their characters feel throughout the film. Also, Bateman and Wilson have real chemistry together, displaying a close friendship between the two girls that never feels false or forced.
Unfortunately, all the adult characters in the film are purely one-dimensional and lifeless. Anthony LaPaglia’s talents are wasted portraying Samuel Mullins, a quiet and sullen man still suffering the loss of his young daughter and working through the terrible ordeal he and his wife have gone through. Stephanie Sigman delivers a cardboard and stilted performance as Sister Charlotte, the nun in charge of the young girls who seems to be terrible at her job and later in the film never conveys any real fear or terror when in the presence of true evil.
Still, thanks to the solid performances from Bateman and Wilson and the stylish direction by Sandberg, Annabelle: Creation is a worthy addition to The Conjuring film franchise and is sure to have goosebumps running up and down the arms of horror fans seeking a late summer thrill in theaters.
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and terror
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: August 11, 2017