Okay, let’s talk about this stupid doll. It’s not scary. Yes, it’s creepy because it’s made to look creepy in a movie sort of way. That’s the wrong approach. Dolls are creepy only when they were made to be cute and innocent and you can clearly see that somebody at the drawing board needed to start over – creepy dolls happen by oversight not by design. The basic problem with the Annabelle doll is that it never looks like it was meant to be given to a child. No sane human being would ever have this eyesore in their child’s bedroom, let alone in their home.
That, in a nutshell, sets Annabelle off on the wrong foot. Who would buy this? Why would you have it? What child in the 21st century would want this? It’s ugly even in the earlier scenes when it is suppose to be new and shiny. It has big, unsettling eyes and a badly painted clown mouth, and it’s much too big for a small child to hold. It looks like something out of a tinkerer’s shop circa 1842.
The movie Annabelle isn’t really even about the doll. It comes packaged as a prequel to The Conjuring, and opens with the exact same scene of the two young nurses relaying their problems with the doll to Ed and Lorraine Warren. Yet, despite being a prequel to that film, this has nothing to do with The Warrens, nor does it have anything to do with the nurses who were haunted by the doll. No, this movie is basically a remake of Rosemary’s Baby, and not a very good one.
You could have all manner of discussion and debate about what makes dolls creepy but I guarantee you it would be far more entertaining than anything that happens in Annabelle. Despite being a prequel to The Conjuring this is a lazy, listless and ultimately dull horror adventure that will exit your brain the moment that the credits roll. If you’re anything like me, your attention span will drift before the second act. It’s not bad so much as it’s just kind of ordinary. Nothing really special happens here. There are surface ideas that seem to me hinted at but never developed.
The movie’s setting is perfect. It takes place in 1970, just a year before the events of The Conjuring, but more importantly at the moment in history when America’s sense of safety was being threatened by images of Rosemary’s Baby and by the murders and subsequent arrest of The Manson Family. That forms a perfect template for what happens here, but director John Leonetti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman never really follow up on that idea. Their film has good production values but it’s story is all on the surface. There’s no second level.
The story deals with Mia and John Gordon, a young couple who are about to be parents. In their New York apartment is small and comfortable, but we know better. As a present, John brings home the oversized Annabelle doll, not for the baby, but for Mia to add to her already growing collection. It’s ugly, and we can see on Mia’s face that she might agree.
Here’s something else. Annabelle is supposedly based on a real doll, one that was investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, real life paranormal investigators (he a demonologist and she a clairvoyant) who have become famous for their work. They were featured prominently in The Conjuring but are hardly a whisper here. The real Annabelle doll resides in their museum at the back of their house in Monroe Connecticut. Here’s the thing though . . . the real doll is Raggedy Ann (pictured below). It looks nothing like the monstrosity portrayed in the movie. I only bring this up because the movie doll shows up at the end as if we’re suppose to think it’s the real thing. I don’t even get that!