Annabelle (2014) – Movie Review

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Annabelle (2014)

directed by John R. Leonetti
produced by James Wan
written by Gary Dauberman

Starring:
Annabelle Wallis
Ward Horton
Alfre Woodard


It would be hard in this day and age to get people scared about doll-horror. It’s an often used plot device in horror that makes it difficult to be original with or write something surprising. I think James Wan did a decent job with Dead Silence building creepy suspense. Here he passes the torch to director, John R. Leonetti, with mixed results.

Firstly, this is not a walking, talking doll like Chucky, attacking members of the family with its little plastic hands. Thanannabelle posterkfully, there was more to Annabelle than that. The doll is a vessel that a bad spirit hid in, to remain connected to the earthbound world. At opportune moments the spirit ventures out in order to finish a ceremony that will conjure a demon. There are some very good parts to this film. There is a big scene in the middle were the young mom goes into the basement and the demon captures her in the elevator, then chases her through the building. This scene is classic creepy and suspenseful horror.

The main problem with the film is, it’s never able to recapture that few minutes of suspenseful horror as it attempts to build a climactic ending. The newborn baby is threatened by this ill-willed spirit, but it never seems to get me nervous or anxious. The wife doesn’t have a character that makes me root for her. And lastly, (spoiler) I don’t really believe the neighbor would sacrifice her own life for complete strangers.

While Annabelle has a decent origination story and some exceptional scenes, it fails to become an enthralling horror film. The rest of the film is loaded with newfangled clichés that we’ve now seen too often in films like, The Conjuring, Insidious II, The Haunting in Connecticut, and others. Even the subject of an evil cult was handled better in the simple film, House of the Devil.

ANNABELLE

A decent scene in the middle makes it worth a one time watch for horror fans.

I give it 2.2 scary doll girls out of 5 on the creepy-cult, conjuring scale of sacrificial Satanists

Insidious Chapter 2 (2013) – movie review

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Insidious Chapter 2 (2013)

After being thoroughly entertained by ’The Conjuring,’ I was eager to see James Wan’s sequel to his earlier film, Insidious. I like the 1st film despite the similarities to Poltergeist and Nightmare on Elm Street. It had its own originality with the black and red demon. The depictions of the Nether and the veiled old crone were creepy. After a brief back-story scene, Insidious 2 begins immediately following the events of the 1st film. The Lambert family has moved into their mother’s home, having their own home quarantined as a police investigation into the death of psychic medium, Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye).

insidious 2 pic 2Josh (Patrick Wilson) is happy that the ordeal is over but his wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), is not convinced. She begins to see and hear strange things in the house, just like at their own home. When she tries to tell her husband, Josh insists that these events are nothing. Eventually the incidents turn into full-on poltergeist encounter. Renai and Lorraine (Josh’s Mom played by Barbara Hershey) get suspicious of her husband’s insistence that it should be ignored.

This first half of the film was successful in creating suspense and delivering a haunting atmosphere. I will say that the phantom piano playing was done better in both, The Others and Grave Dancers but combined with the baby monitor noises, and some ghostly apparitions floating through the rooms, it was escalating nicely. It was good to see Jocelin Donahue from ‘House of the Devil’ playing a young Lorraine in the flashback sequence. I think she’s a fine actress and hope to see her get more parts in film.

(spoiler alert – if you intend to see the film, skip to the last paragraph)
There is a point in this film where everything lined up too perfectly and where everything seemed too explained. The thing that makes paranormal films (and the paranormal in general) scary is the not knowing. I also feel that Wan and Leigh Whanell (co-writer) decided the audience was too dumb to figure things out without slapping them in the face with it. I would say most viewers had already understood that the serial killer, Parker, was abused by his mom and that she made him dress like a girl because she hated men. This was obvious early in the film. But then they had a whole scene, again, which explained it and showed it in better detail. This only made the audience feel sorry for the young boy Parker who grew into the killer Parker. Insidious2 pic 3Feeling empathy toward your main antagonist doesn’t make him scary, it makes him a sorrowful figure. And if that’s not enough, the psychic, Elise, (I know, she’s dead but she was there in the Nether waiting for Josh) then explained it verbally for a third time and added, “If we destroy the memory of the Mom, the spirit looses his power.” Really, that’s too nice and neatly packaged for me. I also love the way the son can fall asleep at a moments notice, even when he is terrified by a psychotic banging down the door. My BS meter was pinned.
(spoiler alert – end)

Eventually, the events became too much to believe. Everything lined up too conveniently. A good film needs to not drift too far from reality to be effective. At times I couldn’t believe all the logic and simple explanations of the events happening. I’d rather have no explanation than a dumb one. I get the same feeling from most cop shows on TV. Every clue leads to another clue or witness and in an hour everything is wrapped up nice and neatly. It’s like paint-by-numbers. It is amazing that a lot of the same techniques that worked so well in The Conjuring, fell flat here. It’s another one of those movies that I wouldn’t mind watching the 1st half, but would then shut it off as it becomes too silly. As always, the sequel isn’t nearly as good as the original.
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Related Articles:
The Conjuring
House of the Devil
Creepy Old Ladies in film

The Conjuring (2013) – movie review

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The Conjuring

In Harrisville, Rhode Island, a young couple with five children struggling to survive a weak economy got a great deal on a home and several acres of land. It was an opportunity they could not pass up. They would later regret it.

The Conjuring is the classic haunted house tale, a true story adapted for film under the direction of James Wan. It relays the harrowing events of the Perron family and what occurred in their country home during 1971. It also follows real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who throughout their lives have helped hundreds of families deal with supernatural occurrences.

The Conjuring delivers, jump scares, creepy scares, fun scares, and ‘think about it at 2: am’ scares – it has it all! The pacing was excellent, leaving time after each big scary scene for nervous laughter and regrouping before ramping up the tension again. There
were some intentionally funny parts, dark and oppressive atmosphere, and the kind of build-up needed for a supernatural film to be effective. At its climax the film escalated into a high-action fear-fest.

Some will say that aspects of the film could have been more in-depth. The investigation into the history of the land seemed truncated but nothing is worse during a ghost movie than watching the protagonist sit in a library looking at old newspapers on microfilm. The scene with the priest was equally short but the film is not about the priest, it is about the Warrens and the Perrons. So, while these scenes were obligatory they were kept to minimum length, which I think worked well for this film.

If you like supernatural horror, ghost stories, haunted house flicks, and a bit of spirit possession, you will likely enjoy this film. It is the most fun I have had with a haunted house film since Poltergeist.
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Recommended if you like:
Poltergeist, House, The Amityville Horror, Insidious, The Woman in Black, The Changeling,

Lorraine Warren was on set as a consultant, a testament to Wan’ s commitment in portraying the events as close to the real happenings as possible.

Lorraine even makes a Cameo appearance in the film during a lecture on supernatural occurrences.

***You can compare the movie with the real life happenings here: Reel Faces

**You can read about some of the Warren’s investigations here: The Warrens

**After many years of silence, the youngest Perron daughter penned a book, ‘House of Darkness House of Light’ in 2009 detailing the events that had taken place back in 1971. When asked why she waited all these years, she stated, “The world was not ready for a story like this back then.” Check out the book here: ‘House of Darkness House of Light’