A prequel to The Conjuring, Annabelle follows a young married couple from the 1970s named Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) preparing for the birth of their first child while John nears the end of his medical studies. There harmonic life is ruined though on one fateful night when their next door neighbours are murdered by their estranged daughter and her partner. After a violent confrontation with Police in Mia and John’s home one of Mia’s dolls becomes possessed.
As Mia and John try to get on with their lives the Annabelle doll makes life a living hell for them and puts their and the life of their daughter in grave danger. They soon turn to people such as Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and the mysterious Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) to try and help them out.
While the world may be in awe of the anything that so-called horror master James Wan touches I’ve never really been bought over. Yes I will agree that the original Saw was a horror masterpiece but the franchise quickly fell away from there. Then there films like Dead Silence that were average to say the least and I wasn’t even won over by the Insidious franchise or The Conjuring so to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from Annabelle but I was pleasantly surprised as this is a film that goes back to some old school horror.
With Annabelle James Wan acts as producer and brings on board director John R. Leonetti on board to direct. Now Leonetti has an interesting career, he has mainly worked as a Director Of Photography on films as far ranged as The Mask, Honey, The Scorpian King and Detroit Rock City. As a director only Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2 rate a mention but with Annabelle he shows that perhaps he should have been in the director’s chair on a number of other films over the years. Leonetti creates some true Alfred Hitchcock style shots including a brilliant ‘through-two-windows’ shot of the neighbour’s murder early on in the film.
Also aided by a serviceable screenplay Leonatti doesn’t allow himself to be sucked into delivering more Hollywood clichés and at times when as an audience you feel like you are going to know what happens next he has the sense to pull away from that and fool his audience. The result is an old school horror style film that relies more on thrills and suspense then what it does on cheap effects or loud noises… and in a sense that only adds to the creepiness even more.
Leads Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton have been given the unusual order to produce a Pleasantville style of acting. It is obvious that they have been directed to mirror the acting styles of older films like Rosemary’s Baby and to their credit both pull it off well. Their move from squeaky clean All-American 1970s’ couple to couple in peril is smooth and almost seamless. Likewise Tony Amendola channels some of the actors who have played ‘creepy’ priests over the years but sadly Alfre Woodard isn’t given very much characterisation to work with and her character remains pretty much one dimensional.
Annabelle does everything that good old fashioned horror fans look for in a film. It sets up a rather evil nasty in a creative way, brings something new cinematically to the table and has just enough plot twists and turns without ever going over the top. Director, John R. Leonetti announces himself as a director with style in the horror genre and it’s good to see a filmmaker that is eager to move away from the Paranormal Activity style of filmmaking and instead turn to the old masters for guidance. Those who fear the doll element to the film will place it in the same realm as Child’s Play as this is a horror film that is much more sophisticated than that.
Directors: John R. Leonetti
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton
Release Date: 10th October, 2014