Annabelle is still waiting for her closeup.
She plays but a secondary role in “Annabelle,” a prequel fleshing out her creepy back story. She looks menacing on the poster, but the filmmakers don’t illustrate why she’s critical to what threatens to be yet another horror franchise.
Annabelle Willis stars as Mia, a woman awaiting the birth of her first child. Husband John (Ward Horton) surprises her with Annabelle, a porcelain doll she giddily adds to her doll collection.
The doll is cursed during a scene involving a demonic cult knocking on the couple’s door. Now, Annabelle’s milky complexion is turning sour, and things start going bump in the night.
“Annabelle” isn’t a straight-to-video-style disaster. The acting is competent. You won’t shout at the scream while the characters put themselves in harm’s way. And the movie serves up roughly four solid scares, three more than most mainstream horror films manage.
It still feels like an assortments of tricks already trotted out in superior horror films. The priest character (Tony Amendola) might have rolled of the movie assembly line, fully formed and ready to be punished for our entertainment.
The central couple, while loving and kind, still comes across as needlessly bland. The late ’60s setting, however, is so refreshing some of these sins are forgiven. The studio doesn’t overload the screen with period kitsch, either. It’s just part of the tonal tapestry, and since the film lacks an auteur’s touch this will have to do.
At one point we hear about the Warrens potentially coming to visit, the real-life couple featured in “The Conjuring.” For a second you pine for Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga dropping in along with their film’s delirious sense of the macabre.
Nothing doing. We’re left with a lifeless doll that works better as a marketing prop than scare generator.
DID YOU KNOW: The real Annabelle doll upset its original owners by allegedly moving about their home and leaving notes that said, “Help Us.”