Five Reasons Why Annabelle: Creation Failed to Scare Audiences

 

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By Melissa Antoinette Garza

 

I went to the cinemas yesterday to see ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017) with the hubby and sadly, both of us were quite disappointed.  I didn’t have great expectations for it, but still I left the theater feeling ripped off.

Now, it wasn’t as bad as LIGHTS OUT (2016), but I won’t set that as the benchmark for standard budget Hollywood cinema that had the means to make a great movie, yet didn’t. Therefore, here are the top five reasons why ANNABELLE CREATION (2017) is a failure.

(for those interested, I would have given it a 4/10)

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WARNING: SPOILERS

 

(5)  PREDICTABILITY

Horror tropes are expected and despite being overused are generally welcome.  Horror fans are loyal to the genre and desperately want a good film.  Still, there needs to be some originality!  Not only can the viewer predict every scare, but the obnoxiously loud musical stingers forewarn the viewer just in case they weren’t paying attention.

Despite adding some history to the doll and a little more lore, it failed to raise the stakes or even match the stakes of the previous films.

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(4) CASTING and CHARACTERS

Admittedly, Talitha Eliana Bateman did an amazing job.  Her portrayal of Janice was effective in pulling the heartstrings of the viewer.  Janice’s bout with polio, her disability and subsequent injuries makes her an incredibly sympathetic character.  Bateman worked with what little was given to her and came out with an incredible performance in a really bad movie.

That said, there are some issues with the other characters.  First and foremost is Janice’s best friend Linda (LuLu Wilson).  The problem isn’t so much with Wilson’s talent as it is that horror fans just saw her in OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016) and the characters are extremely similar.  Her mere presence made it impossible to suspend disbelief as the entire time I thought, “she was so much better in the other film.”  Had the powers-that-be changed her hair or anything visually about her, it would have helped.  Instead, we’re constantly being reminded of a better film while also having to sit through dialogue as vapid as “she says she sees your daughter” and “this doll is hurting Janice.”   There’s no intellect, depth or even entertainment value where the dialogue is concerned.

The rest of the orphans are essentially all the same other than 2 are around 16 and the other 2 are around 11.  They all share a bedroom together.  The older girls like telling ghost stories and talking about boys.  The most irritating aspect is that none of them were bad.  It’s so difficult to find young actors who are able to emote in a believable way and these girls had that ability.  They conveyed fear when scared and could have been great co-stars but were relegated to background players with few lines.

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(3)  THEY HAD ANTHONY LAPAGLIA   

The filmmakers were lucky enough to have one of the greatest cult classic actors of all time and they did NOTHING with him.   LaPaglia who portrays Annabelle’s father and the owner of the home where the orphans stay was really IN this movie.  What I mean by that, is they didn’t have LaPaglia for 1 day of filming – they had time to give him something to sink his teeth into.  How do you fail at making a quality film when you have LaPaglia portraying a central character?

First, LaPaglia as always IS amazing and I’m not just saying that because I’ve had a crush on him since EMPIRE RECORDS (1995) and his mere voice gives me chills! Yes those facts are true, but it’s more than that.  LaPaglia sunk his teeth into this affected caricature despite being given nothing to work with.

Had a side-story developed where romance bloomed between Sam Mullins (LaPaglia) and Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) thus causing the wrath of Sam’s disabled wife Esther (Miranda Otto) to fall upon them, we could have had something.  If God denied his help or delayed his help because a devout nun failed the test of temptation and got it on (understandably) with Sam, I’d be intrigued.

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They had Anthony LaPaglia!  Damn. Damn. Damn.

NUNSENSE

(2)  NUNSENSE: 

Intertwining movies and characters can make for some of the greatest film universes of all time.  Look no further than SPLIT (2017) and UNBREAKABLE (2000) to see it done to perfection.  Now, I don’t expect every filmmaker or writer to be able to get to that level, but if you attempt at intertwining stories at least have some sort of payoff.

Here, Charlotte has a picture of her standing with two other nuns, but then Sam notices a third nun – Guess who?  Yep, it’s the Marilyn Manson-look alike from THE CONJURING 2 (2016).  Charlotte never noticed it before and it never comes up again.   Booooooooooooo…..   Why?  Come on.  You can’t save everything for a sequel.  At least write something in advance!  Give us some connection other than, playing the worst game of Where’s Waldo in the history of man.

I absolutely loved THE CONJURING 2, but I wasn’t crazy about the nun to begin with.  It was too CGI for my tastes (more on that in a sec) but if you’re going to do a callback, at least do a callback.  Tell us what the connection is.  This is a prequel so the Warren’s don’t know about Annabelle yet and that demon is not from the Annabelle doll.  I know THE NUN (2018) is coming out in 2018 and I’ll be a sucker and go see it, but if you’re going to reference the nun twice (once after credits) give us something beyond a connection of Romania.

Interestingly, when writing this article, I read that director David F. Sandberg refused to sign-on unless he could write a complete stand-alone film with just a few references to other films.  Why does this need saying?  If you work for a major studio and decide to run with a film franchise and some no-name who made one other mainstream horror movie refuses to sign-on unless his sequel can be a stand-alone movie, find someone else!  A sequel or prequel by definition can’t be a stand-alone film!  It’s insane that he got the job!  Sadly, so many people paid to see this movie so that they could see the latest IT (2017) trailer that this will get a sequel.  This film has already made 90 million on a 15 million dollar budget.  This is getting a sequel, which may or may not connect to this film or any other film in any way apparently.  I hate Hollywood sometimes!

 

SCARY

[HONORABLE MENTION] BAD CGI: 

Just why?  You know horror fans hate it.  We don’t ask for much.  I will listen to Tom Savini talk about the horrors of Vietnam and how it impacted his work 7/365, if he would just handle the special effects of all horror movies.  Practical effects take a heart and soul and a desire for perfection and originality!  Savini has an ego bigger than my house, but he deserves it because he is in love with every creation he’s made and gives them as gifts to the horror world.

In ANNABELLE CREATION we get the gray spooky face with the big mouth that we see in nearly every horror movie in the last 12 years.  I’ve seen Halloween decorations scarier than that.  When this inevitably gets a sequel, I beg the filmmakers to call Savini.  Hey, I’ll even watch an interview with him if you put it on the DVD.  I know what I’m in for.  I’ll eagerly listen to every word of how war imagery inspired him regardless of how long he talks, just for GOD SAKES hire him for special effects! Give him whatever he wants! Do it!

 

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(1)  WASTED POTENTIAL: 

I take a lot of heat from my brother for sticking by Hollywood Horror and once again, I’m going to have to try to make excuses for a bad big budget movie. Hollywood, I’m trying, but you have to work with me.  I give a lot of leeway for modern horror.  I don’t hold it to the standards of the 70s.  I realize it’s a rarity that an intellectual horror movie will come to the theaters (fingers crossed for FLATLINERS [2017]).  All I want is a story.  At the end of this movie, I told my husband Steve, it would have been great if this was cut down to 5 minutes and the rest of the movie could have followed Janice’s destructive life and cult.  After I said it, it occurred to me how sad that was.  This movie could be cut down to 5 minutes (actually much less than 5, I’m being generous) and the viewer would lose nothing! There was no story.  Here’s the plot:

Little girl dies, parents make a deal with a demon, sometimes dead is better, demon wants a human soul, jumps into Janice, mayhem ensues, priest comes, Anthony LaPaglia remains gorgeous and amazing.

It just needed a story.  There was so much protentional after the first ANNABELLE to make something really cool.  Steve said the end result felt like a first draft and I agree.  As both a writer and devoted horror fan there are so many plot-points and holes that irritate the living hell out of me.  Little changes could have made this movie terrifying.  This was rated R and it was such a soft undeserved R.  Earn that R!  Here’s a quick summation of how I would have fixed this film.

Sam, Esther and young Annabelle are living together.  Sam isn’t happy with Esther but stays in the loveless marriage.  He goes to a catholic church in hopes that God will help him.  He runs into Sister Charlotte who just got back from Romania and is working at the orphanage which is getting shut down.  Sam tells Esther that it’s a sign from God that they need to take in the kids, but truthfully, he just had the hots for Charlotte.  He brings everyone in and Annabelle shares a room with Janice who is recovering from polio.  Sam who originally made the doll for Annabelle’s birthday gives it to Janice instead, hoping to impress Charlotte.

Annabelle gets growingly jealous, but no one notices.  One day when Esther is gone and Sam and Charlotte are supposed to be watching the kids, they start fooling around.  Annabelle starts up on Janice and tries to throw her out a window, but falls to her death instead.

When Esther finds out what happened, she goes nuts and kicks everyone out.  She gets taken in by a cult leader (let’s call him ROBERT in honor of Robert the Doll) who promises he can help bring back Annabelle, but that he needs a soul.  She pretends to have forgiven everyone and welcomes everyone back to the house.  Charlotte knows something is up, but Sam is happy to get another chance.  Charlotte keeps a watchful eye on the kids, but one night she awakes to find Esther and Robert killing Janice as a sacrifice.  Charlotte fails in trying to stop it and goes mad when she sees the doll turn to look at her.

Esther watches as an invisible apparition kills Charlotte.  Believing it to be Annabelle seeking revenge, Esther smiles.  Robert and Esther make it look like a murder/suicide due to guilt.  Quick to squash any rumors or talk, Esther insists on adopting all the kids.

Taken in, by both the demon pretending to be her daughter and Robert, she is easy prey.  Esther poisons and thus kills Sam at the urging of the demonic force. People suspect Esther but there’s no evidence.  She marries Robert and adopts the orphans to seem beyond reproach, and it works for a bit.

Esther soon realizes the demon conjured is not her daughter and she tries to get away from Robert and even redeems herself in a small way trying to save the kids, but she’s killed.  The kids ban together as Robert now completely overtaken by the demon seeks to kill the children.  Paranormal attacks and the appearance of the doll would be used at the culmination scene.  Cabinets should swing open chairs should shatter against the wall, the dolls should start walking like Talking Tina from THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  Annabelle lost so much credibility because of the look of the doll.  Annabelle looks like something Freddy Krueger would snuggle with.  The way to properly use that is to make the actions of the doll completely different than the appearance.  It causes tension inside the viewer because the action doesn’t match the expectation.  The viewer expects the doll’s head to turn around and it to go all Chucky with a knife or something painfully similar.  If instead, Annabelle suddenly was sweet it would be terrifying.  If a doll that looked like Annabelle laughed like the “we’re going to get you” demon in the EVIL DEAD (1981) and spoke in a sugary sweet voice, I’d give a standing ovation and then have nightmares for a year.  Where is THAT movie?  Come on Hollywood!!  SCARE ME! PLEASE!!

One kid would get away and go to a phone as the oldest would sacrifice herself to save the youngest kid who she always poked fun of throughout the film.  They call 911.  Robert is killed as the demon rips through his body and crawls out of him.  It’s about to attack the children.  The police and the priest arrive at the same time.  The priest does his Biblical hocus pocus, the doll is taken away, the kids are taken to another home.  FINI-

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I adore movies about killer dolls and I love paranormal movies but this was such a tired, weak, and poorly written mess.  Now, I must watch EMPIRE RECORDS (1995).