Gary Dauberman says the creepy star of the “Annabelle” series is the gift that keeps on giving. And she doesn’t even draw a salary.
We’re talking about the titular doll, of course.
“You try not to use her too much as a crutch,” Dauberman says of the evil doll which first appeared in the 2013 shocker, “The Conjuring.”
“’Less is more’ is the strategy,” says Dauberman, who wrote the 2014 hit “Annabelle” and its prequel, “Annabelle: Creation.” The latter, out Aug. 12, tells us how the child’s toy became possessed by evil spirits.
It’s still fun for a screenwriter to have her as a weapon in the horror tool kit.
“It’s amazing how you can cut away from her sitting in a chair and you get this reaction from the audience,” Dauberman says. “It’s the power of Annabelle … she’s a great exclamation point to a lot of scenes.”
That power brought in more than $84 million domestically (and $256 million worldwide) for the first spinoff from “The Conjuring” franchise.
The extended “Conjuring” world features 2018’s upcoming shocker “The Nun,” also penned by Dauberman. It’s a realm where spirituality and horror collide in fascinating ways. Faith is treated with respect. Evil forces are unrelenting.
Blending the two “is easier said than done,” Dauberman says. And there’s no secret sauce behind the success.
“It all stems from good and evil,” he says. “I build from that foundation.”
For “Annabelle: Creation,” that meant exploring the doll’s origin while tapping into a parents’ nightmare. The main characters lose their young daughter in the film’s opening sequences.
Dauberman selflessly credits much of the franchise’s success to James Wan. The horror maven directed the first two “Conjuring” films and has significant creative sway over the series. The screenwriter says New Line Cinema is equally protective of the “Conjuring” brand.
Horror sequels often involve attractive young men and women trying to evade evil spirits or masked killers. For “Creation,” the heroes are a group of girls in ‘50s rural America.
“I love playing with different time periods,” he says. “You don’t have to deal with cell phones The toys … they’re almost inherently creepy with the old designs.”
It’s a rich environment “you don’t see too often in horror,” he adds.
FAST FACT: The FX team behind “Annabelle: Creation” used multiple sets of eyes on Annabelle to heighten scares during production.
Some screenwriters hand off their pages to the powers that be. That marks the end of their involvement. Not here. Dauberman says he was on the set every day, working with the cast and crew.
“I’m not there to get in the way,” he says. “[Director David F. Sandberg] is such a great collaborator. There’s no ego there.”
Dauberman won’t be leaving the horror genre anytime soon. His next screenwriter effort, the reboot of Stephen King’s “It,” hits theaters next month. He’s a fan of the 1990 TV miniseries of the same name, remembering exactly where he was when he first watched it.
Now, he’s tasked with bringing one of King’s best novels to the big screen – and replacing the iconic Tim Curry performance as Pennywise the Clown. (“Atomic Blonde’s” Bill Skarsgard takes over for Curry) Dauberman purposefully didn’t revisit the miniseries before writing the new film’s script.
He did, however, cling to the source material.
“We stayed true to the spirit of the book,” he says, although it pains him to leave some aspects from the massive novel out. “We’re not going to put everything in there. It’s hard because it’s all great.”