Horror movies are difficult to review as their primary purpose is to frighten and confront rather than narrate effectively. However, this does not mean horror can never be intelligent. Great horror films provide ample scares while also providing either a gripping story or a self-reflexive take on the genre itself, such as 2012’s brilliant ‘The Cabin in the Woods’.
Having not seen ‘The Conjuring’ but heard great anecdotal word, it’s prequel ‘Annabelle’ largely disappoints on most fronts…except for the prerequisite jump scares that easily bring about that distinct horror tone.
Let’s start with the good then. ‘Annabelle’ knows how to set up a horror; the 1960s setting works brilliantly for amplifying suspense. Old sewing machines, televisions and record players may be clichéd tropes of the genre but they nevertheless do their job in setting the skin crawling. And of course, the doll itself and its surrounding mythology works to enhance the dread.
The cast is also fairly believable but they are let down by a script as riddled with clichés as the doll is cursed. And this exposes ‘Annabelle’s greatest flaw.
Like so many horror films, it is composed of just too many overused, clichéd conventions. A few tropes can be a homage to the genre, too many make the whole film seem lazy, as though it exists merely to cash in on the success of ‘The Conjuring’ (and let’s not kid ourselves here, it almost certainly does). We never side with the characters because we don’t care enough about them.
Furthermore, the story doesn’t seem compelling enough at any point and, even worse, is its predictable resolution. ‘Annabelle’s potential never feels fully realised and because of this it suffers. While frightening in many aspects, and successful in building suspense, the impact of ‘Annabelle’ wore off quite quickly.
‘Forgettable’ perfectly sums up everything about ‘Annabelle’ and it’s a shame because the potential is definitely there and it’s so rare to find a horror that has even that.
Ultimately, opinions of horror films differ greatly from person to person; they are by nature highly subjective. Thus, if you are a horror fan perhaps you will find something to enjoy here. Or perhaps what I found to be it’s one redeeming quality, its scares, will be lost on your seasoned nerves. But if you aren’t in it for the frights then ‘Annabelle’ lacks the substance to make it worthwhile at all.